“and I pointed out there were ten deadly drivers of this disruption and economic deficiencies.
This started after the Global Financial Crisis, but they are being exacerbated by this Coronavirus crisis.
1. Things like tax deficits and default. 2. Poor demographics is going to be a big liability. 3. Or initially deflation, followed by debasement of currencies as we monetize the fiscal deficits; we’re going to end up, eventually with inflation. 4. We have features of disruption with A.I. and automation. 5. And then, rising inequality. 6. And then you have de-globalization, as there is a backlash against trade, immigration and open markets. 7, And then you have a democracy backlash. 8. And then from there you go to this duopolistic rivalry between the U.S. and China, 9. and the digital rivalry between U.S. and China as well. 10. And you finish with deadly, manmade disasters like pandemics and climate change–they’re not natural disasters, but as we know are manmade.
You combine these ten forces–and they’re all very disruptive–and you might have, eventually, a greater depression. But this is not the story for this year or next, but for the middle of the decade.”
Update, end September, 2021 In the ongoing series of posts on “Our economy deteriorating,” we would like to include additional drivers of the Greater Recession– 11. Secular stagnation of wages in our economic system, a risk factor for collapse and 12. The world oil shocks / world energy shocks scenarios about to roll out at mid-decade, from mid-2025 onward. These scenarios will make it difficult-to-impossible to re-start the “growth engine” which for 120 years has been fueled by growth in fossil fuels consumption. A Dozen Deadly Drivers of economic crises. No community, no county, no state will avoid these crises. We had all better begin to prepare for a wholly different world ahead.
Who is Nouriel Roubini?
Nouriel Roubini (born March 29, 1958) is an American economist He teaches at New York University’s Stern School of Business and is chairman of Roubini Macro Associates LLC, an economic consultancy firm.
The child of Iranian Jews, he was born in Turkey and grew up in Italy. After receiving a BA in political economics at Bocconi University, Milan and a doctorate in Intenational Economics at Harvard, he became an academic at Yale and a visiting researcher/advisor at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Federal Reserve, World Bank, and Bank of Israel. Much of his early research focused on emerging markets. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, he was a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers, later moving to the United States Treasury Department as a senior adviser to Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury Secretary under Barack Obama.
On September 24 2021, the UW Divestment Coalition had another “banner drop”at a busy crossing point for students on the Univesity of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus.
The first video is an interview with Molly McGuire, the Vice-President of 350-Stevens Point, a local chapter of the large national movement 350-Org founded by Bill McKibben. The Stevens Point chapter’s officers are all students at UW-Stevens Point, which is unique among environmental groups in this state.
Next is a brief interview with Lucy, Action Coordinator of the UW Divestment Coalition at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The musical soundtrack was not intentional, but part of the background sound outside the athletic building where the students were coming and going.
With the Covid pandemic in the USA going into the 18th month in August 2021, we thought it important to highlight not only the disruptions to the economic system which the pandemic has brought on, but also the existing “ten deadly drivers for the greater depression of the decade of the 2020s” which Nouriel Roubini had laid out early in the arrival of the pandemic in the USA. His predictions were laid out in a Guardian story of April 29, 2020.
One “deadly driver” for very long-term recession or depression is not mentioned in Roubini’s piece, but is I think the most critical of factors. That factor is the world energy shocks that will unfold later in the decade, the years 2026 – 2031. In September 2019, Dennis Coyne covered “World Oil Shocks Scenarios” in his post in PeakOilBarrel-dot-com. His focus was on challenging the always-optimistic predictions that come out of the USA Energy Information Agency. I’ve thought for a long time that the EIA energy outlooks are designed to cater to the public relations needs of the USA’s oil and gas industries, as well as to reassure U.S. consumers (who allegedly drive 70% of GDP growth) so that consumers keep confidently spending money.
In the major study that was dropped late December, 2019, by GTK, the Geological Survey of Finland, just before the pandemic was announced to the global community, Simon Michaux takes 512 pages of PDF to blow up the narrative that Mr. Biden (and all of the fossil fuel corporations script-writers, along with 90% of finance media) are selling about the success of the drill-baby-drill concept. The drill-baby-drill concept goes like this: Action on climate change will just have to wait, because if the nation cuts back on fossil fuel consumption, the economy will decline and millions will suffer. So we must keep on drilling.
Before you can drill it, you have to discover the resource you hope to drill. Very, very little new discovery has happened over the past two decades as Michaux points out. Very little “new oil” will be coming in the next 2 decades, no matter how much ‘drill-baby-drill” happens.
The World Oil Shocks scenarios will start to roll out later this decade. The economy will continue its decline already underway. Think of it as the Eleventh Deadly Driver added to Roubin’s Ten. Millions will suffer, even as frenzied drilling continues.
Here’s the 512-page PDF file stashed on my blog site: Oil from a Critical Raw Material Perspective. The reference list along takes up 23 pages. Lots for you to read and digest there. Click the blue link to read online, or use the “DOWNLOAD” button and save it on your drive for occasional light reading.
“The term secular stagnation refers to a market economy with a chronic (secular or long-term) lack of demand. Historically, a booming economy with low unemployment and high GDP growth (i.e., an economy at or above capacity) would generate inflation in wages and products. However, an economy facing secular stagnation behaves as if it is operating below capacity, even when the economy appears to be booming; inflation does not appear. In a healthy economy, if household savings exceed business investments, interest rates fall; lower interest rates stimulate spending and investment, which bring savings and investments into balance. However, an economy facing secular stagnation may require an interest rate below zero to bring savings and investment into balance. The surplus of savings over investment may be generating price appreciation in financial assets or real estate. For example, the U.S. had low unemployment but low inflation in the years leading up to the Great Recession, although a massive housing bubble developed.” (Wikipedia definition
The theory of secular stagnation was first put forward in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, and more recently revived by economist Lawrence Summers, who served as an economic advisor in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.
The primary tenets of the theory are that the lack of investing, due to an increased tendency toward saving, and the lack of an aggressive (i.e., high spending) government fiscal policy are the primary causes of a state of economic stagnation, where there is little discernible economic growth.
Opponents of the secular stagnation theory argue that the theory’s alleged condition of exaggerated saving is largely a myth and that the true culprit holding down economic growth is increased government regulation and fiscal intervention.
In this blog post we will be referring to the secular stagnation of wages particularly in the United States. The chronic lack of demand mentioned in the Wikipedia definition derives from, has its origin in, the stagnation of wage rates. We consider it *secular* because we can date this stagnation of wage rates to a specific time in recent history, which was the rise of the Reagan-Thatcher form of neoliberal economics. A core factor in this neoliberalism which has dominated for the past four decades is the weakening and ultimately destruction of the labor unions in the USA, and in the UK, the Labour Party.
Wage Stagnation in Charts & Graphs
In making a case for the connection of real-wage stagnation and “Peak Inequality” in the USA, you need to look at a bunch of data. Much of this is available in the visual format, charts and graphs. The first line graphs come from this source. Note the disclaimer on “Epistemic Status.”
Wage Stagnation: Much More Than You Wanted To Know Posted on February 25, 2019 by Scott Alexander
“[Epistemic status: I am basing this on widely-accepted published research, but I can’t guarantee I’ve understood the research right or managed to emphasize/believe the right people. Some light editing to bring in important points people raised in the comments.]”
A more recent chart was published by Pew Research more recently.
This chart measures wages vs GDI, Gross Domestic income and is published by Business Insider. Investopedia defines Gross Domestic Income with a key takeaway that
“The most significant component of GDI is wages and salaries; historically, roughly 50% of all national income has gone to workers.”
Critical insights from Our Finite World: When wages of non-elite workers are inadequate to drive economic growth
Retired actuary Gail Tverberg was a constant contributor to the peak-oil theory blog The Oil Drum, which is now discontinued. But she maintains her own site under the title Our Finite World.
In Gail’s finite world, the wages of the base-level working class, what she calls the “non-elite workers” are also of prime concern when examining the current “growth economy” orthodoxy and its failure—and how an economic collapse may be in the future for this economy.
Tverberg typically begins an essay with a discussion on the energy situation in the economy–whether there is adequate cheap, easy-to-get energy to continue powering growth forward. But then she inevitably turns toward the problem of the wages of the lowest segment of our working class:
“The wages shown on Slide 24 have already been inflation adjusted. Thus, in the period before 1968, wages for both the lower 90% of workers and for the top 10% of workers were rising rapidly, even considering the impact of inflation. Many families were able to afford a car for the first time. After 1980, the wages of the top 10% rose much more quickly than the wages of the bottom 90%.”
Among the experts who are examining the current situation with the limits to growth, and the geophysical-biophysical constraints which are now causing serious deterioration in the U.S. and global growth economy, Tverberg focuses much more on the questions of economic and social justice than many authors who look more mechanistically at the operations of the economy without enough consideration to the human impacts of its operations.
Gail Tverberg is unique among commentators in what we’ll call the “thermodynamic economics” space for this focus on economic and social justice. Most writers focus most exclusively on the energy questions of this era–will there be enough of this or that form of energy to keep driving the growth engine of Gross Domestic Product. It is crucial to keep both elements in focus, the carbon element, C, and the human element, Hu.
The fragment on Peak Inequality [taken from a recent post]
Two years ago when I started in on a series of blog posts dealing with this deteriorating economic system we live under I found myself using the term “peak inequality” for the condition of our nation’s, and Wisconsin’s, political economy–economic and political systems. Checking to see if anyone else was using this term I turned to search scholarly literature and discovered that Oxford Professor Danny Dorling had written his book “Peak Inequality: Britain’s Ticking Time Bomb.” This was a pleasant discovery, and further searches on Dorling’s work uncovered many, many hours of video exposition on YouTube.
I am not an economist; I am a retired actuary. I have spent years making forecasts within the insurance industry. These forecasts were financial in nature, so I have had hands-on experience with how various parts of the financial system work. I was one of the people who correctly forecast the Great Recession. I also wrote the frequently cited academic article, Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis, which points out the connection between the Great Recession and oil limits.
Today’s indications seem to suggest that an even more major recession than the Great Recession may strike in the not too distant future. Why should this be the case? Am I imagining problems where none exist?
In constructing this multi-part alternative-economics blog series, we thought it best to seek out the ideas of those who are specifically not orthodox economists, or not economists at all, but rather, astute observers of the real goings-on in the real world we inhabit.
Further on in the “World’s Weird Self-Organizing Economy” post we find that Gail the Actuary has acquired a deeper understanding of the problem of inequality of income and wealth, than you might expect to find from someone who has worked for large property-and-casualty insurance companies. She writes:
 Part of the world’s energy problem is a distribution problem; the world becomes divided into haves and have-nots in many ways. It is this distribution problem that tends to push the world economy toward collapse.
There are many parts to this distribution problem. One is the distribution of goods and services (created using energy) by country. Over time, this tends to change, especially as commodity prices change. Oil exporters are favored when oil prices are high; oil importers are favored when oil prices are low. The relative values of currencies can change quickly, as commodity prices change.
Another part of this distribution problem is growing wage and wealth disparity, as more technology is added. If there is too much wage disparity, low-paid workers often cannot afford adequate food, homes, and transportation for their families. Their lack of demand for goods made with energy products (because of their low wages) tends to work through the system as low commodity prices. This happens because (a) there are so many of these workers and (b) these workers tend to purchase a disproportionate share of goods and services that are highly energy-dependent.
Gail Tverberg further shows a greater awareness of the impact of income and wealth inequality upon not only the economy, but the whole society as the prospect of “collapse” is introduced. Gail:
When I talk about non-elite workers, I am talking about workers who are in the bottom 90% of the wage distribution. Elite workers will always have enough income for the necessities of life. There are so many non-elite workers in the world that they, indeed, do make a difference.
Also, the forces that adversely affect non-elite workers tend to have several effects:
They tend to send a larger share of wages to elite workers, as the economy becomes more complex and more specialized.
They tend to send more unearned income to elite workers, through capital appreciation, because elite workers can afford to buy shares of stock and expensive homes.
The wealthy spend their income differently from non-elite workers. Non-elite workers tend to spend the bulk of their discretionary income on devices made using commodities, such as cell phones and automobiles. The wealthy are likely to spend their discretionary income in less energy intensive ways, such as investing in shares of stock and buying services such as private college education for their children.
History shows that economies tend to collapse when wage and wealth disparity becomes too great. Collapse can take various forms, including revolutions by the disgruntled underclass, increased susceptibility to epidemics, or the financial collapse of governments. Wars become more likely, as one country tries to aid its citizens at the expense of citizens of other countries.
In this blog post we’ve taken the concept of “secular stagnation” to the level where it originates – in wage stagnation, for the base working class in the nations which lay claim to having a “growth economy” In the peer-reviewed literature, linked below, you may notice that the literature often approaches the stagnation concept from the macro, the whole-economy, perspective, looking down at the economy from space, as it were, perhaps from one of the Starlink satellites.
In this post we’ve tried to take the problem down to ground level, or street level, the level of fast-food workers walking a picket line in front of a chain restaurant demanding a living wage, and a union to enforce that.
If you want to explore the View from Space, here’s a Review of Literature: