On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses the economic and political collapse of the American empire with economist Professor Rick D. Wolff. Wolff’s new book, ‘The Sickness is the System – When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,’ is available on September 15.
Two days ago, something extraordinary happened. Something that has never happened before in the history of capitalism. In Britain, the news came out that the economy had suffered its greatest slump ever – more than 22% down during the first 7 months of 2020. Remarkably, on the same day, the London Stock Exchange, the FTSE100 index, rose by more than 2%. On the same day, during a time America has ground to a halt and is beginning to look like not just as an economy in deep trouble but also, ominously, as a failed state, Wall Street’s SP500 index hit an all-time record. Unable to contain myself, I tweeted the following: Financial capitalism has decoupled from the capitalist economy, skyrocketing out of Earth's orbit, leaving behind it broken lives & dreams. As the UK sinks into the worst recession ever, & US edges toward failed state status, FTSE100 goes up 2% & S&P500 breaks all time record! Today, this link between profit forecasts and share prices has disappeared and, as a consequence, the share market’s misanthropy has entered a new, post-capitalist phase. This is not as controversial a claim as it may sound at first. In the midst of our current pandemic not one person in their right mind imagines that there are speculators out there who believe that there are enough speculators out there who may believe that company profits in the UK or in the US will rise any time soon. And yet they buy shares with enthusiasm. The pandemic’s effect on our post-2008 world is now creating forces hitherto unfathomable.
As many Americans continue to struggle to meet their debt obligations amid the coronavirus pandemic, it appears first-time homeowners have been hit the hardest. According to a recent report by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the second quarter of 2020 saw mortgage delinquencies soar by 8.22%, after increasing 4% from the previous quarter. This is the sharpest jump in the survey’s history, suggesting that the economic effects from the coronavirus pandemic are far from over. The report also found that some homeowners are struggling significantly more than others.
While so many of us struggle to survive, some of the richest billionaires in the world dominate the residential real estate industry in the United States. These corporate landlords are companies owned by extremely wealthy individuals, Wall Street entities like private equity firms and hedge funds, and institutional investors. At least six leading residential property owners — Essex Property Trust, Brookfield Property Partners, Equity Residential, Related Companies, Irvine Company, and Blackstone — have top executives on the Forbes billionaires list. The U.S. real estate industry is led by some of the richest, most powerful people in the world. They have profited handsomely from the last foreclosure crisis, the commodification of housing, and decades of racist housing policy, all while actively lobbying to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified what we already knew: Corporate landlords’ bill is long past due. It’s time to make them pay for the cancellation of rent, mortgages, and utilities for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. Making them pay will help millions of tenants, homeowners, and struggling property owners who are struggling to survive.
Spreading faster than COVID-19 among those on the portside, warnings of a fascist-style coup by Trump are rampant this presidential campaign season. Meanwhile, in the real world, more than 51 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March. Some 27 million people have lost their health insurance on top of around 30 million who were uninsured before, in the face of the massive pandemic. The Federal Reserve has pumped $7 trillion into corporate bonds, municipal securities, loans and grants to business, while millions are going hungry. The pandemic death toll in the US is 168,345 as it rages out of control. California cannot even accurately count the number of cases being reported. The US is experiencing the greatest combined health and economic crisis since the founding of the republic. But instead of demanding solutions, the overriding liberal-left concern of this presidential campaign season is the specter of a Trump coup, quickly forgetting the issues that Bernie Sanders ran on.
The Lebanese economy crashed into the equivalent of a brick wall sometime in the last few months of 2019. The Lebanese pound (or lira), which was pegged to the dollar and appeared to be stable for well over two decades, started to decline at a rate that threatened the complete collapse of the economy. In the meantime, the Trump administration had been busy building a “Great Wall” of sanctions around Lebanon, even as the country as a whole was drowning in a mountain of debt. The first to be impacted was the powerful financial sector — the crown jewel of the Lebanese economy — which effectively shut down, fearing a run on the banks by panicked depositors seeking to withdraw their life savings, a large bulk of which was in U.S.
The U.S. economy shrunk at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 32.9 percent during the second quarter of 2020 as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic spurred an economic collapse of record-breaking speed and size, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Between April and June, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrunk at a pace that would have wiped out roughly a third of the value of the economy if extended over 12 months, according to the Commerce Department’s advance estimate of second-quarter growth. It is the largest one-quarter plunge in economic growth since the federal government began reporting quarterly GDP data. “This was the steepest decline since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, when output shrank by 8.4%,” wrote Agathe Demarais, global forecasting director at The Economist Intelligence Unit in a Wednesday preview of the report. “The scale of the fall in the first quarter will be dwarfed by that in the second.”
In the midst of an enormous, unavoidable increase in national unemployment, the $600 per week unemployment benefit increase that has sustained millions is set to run out at the end of this month, and is unlikely to be renewed at its current level, if at all. Eviction moratoriums are expiring, and more than 20 million Americans could be in danger of eviction in the next four months. Many small businesses, their resources exhausted, are closing for good, and bankruptcies of large businesses are accelerating. Millions have already lost their employer-based health insurance, and millions more will. At the same time that schools will be unable to reopen safely, a huge portion of private child care facilities are going out of business. And city and state governments will face plummeting tax revenue at the same time as they face a need for increased crisis spending, leaving the future of mass transit and other public services in doubt.
All Great Recessions with an initial deep economic contraction, are typically followed by brief shallow recoveries, cut short by subsequent double dips or quarters of no growth stagnation. That was true of the Great Recession of 2008-09, which didn’t really end in June 2009 but bounced along the bottom economically for several more years. A similar trajectory will almost certainly follow today’s 2020 Great Recession 2.0 now concluding its Phase One initial deep collapse. The Phase One deep collapse is now giving way to its Phase Two and what will prove a brief and quite modest ‘rebound’. But that’s not a recovery. Further economic relapses are inevitable after ‘short, shallow rebounds’ that characterize all Great Recessions. That trajectory—i.e. short, shallow rebounds followed by relapses also brief and moderate can go on for years. What it means is there will be no V-shape and true recovery in the US economy in the second half of 2020. What there will be is an extended ‘W-shape’ period, the next two years 2020-2022 at minimum.
Within just a few weeks—faster than the blink of an eye in geological time—a tiny, microscopic entity brought the global monolith of human civilization, the captains of industry, the might of the world’s militaries, the financial juggernauts of money and manufacturing, to their knees. According to the likely, but still uncertain theory, the novel coronavirus behind the disease named COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) whipsawed its way across East China, from wet markets in Wuhan, before becoming a global pandemic. Within months, two million people worldwide were confirmed infected—with tens of millions estimated to be the real number—and over 150,000 had died. As everyday life ground to a halt amid social lockdowns designed to reduce the impact on flailing health care facilities, so too did the global economy.
Baltimore, MD - U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, threatened the viability of stores across the country and further weighed down a sinking economy. The Commerce Department’s report Friday on retail purchases showed a sector that has collapsed so fast that sales over the past 12 months are down a crippling 21.6%. The severity of the decline is unrivaled for retail figures that date back to 1992. The monthly decline in April nearly doubled the previous record drop of 8.3% — set just one month earlier. “It’s like a hurricane came and leveled the entire economy, and now we’re trying to get it back up and running,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist for the consultancy Maria Fiorini Ramirez.
This past Friday, May 8, the US Labor Dept. released its latest jobless figures. The official report was 20 million more unemployed and an unemployment rate of 14.7%. Both mainstream and progressive media reported the numbers: 20 million more jobless and 14.7%. But those numbers, as horrendous as they are, represent a gross under-estimation of the jobless situation in America! One might understand why the mainstream media consistently under-reports the jobless. But it is perplexing why so many progressives continue to simply parrot the official figures. Especially when other Labor Dept. data admits the true unemployment rate is 22.4% and the officially total unemployed is 23.1 million. Here’s why the 20 million and 14.7% is a gross under-representation of the magnitude of jobless today: