In the last fortnight or so, I've come across a fair number of stories in the New Zealand media about the apparent beginnings of an 'economic recovery' in the crucial United States economy. Here's a typical story from the Dominion Post (August 28)
The US economy shrank less than expected in the second quarter, despite a record drop in inventories, and fewer workers filed new claims for jobless benefits last week, a sign the economy was starting to heal.
Actually this story did the rounds - the same story appeared in The Press and on Radio New Zealand. It probably appeared elsewhere as well.
There's been a lot of empty bluster like this in the media.
Because he annoys me so much, I must mention Corin Dann the business reporter on Television One. He is one of the more unreconstructed cheerleaders for neoliberalism and the 'free market'. Every time the American stockmarket goes up he wets his pants on national television.
Of course these ' good news' stories are largely coming from the same people and organisations that told us that the free market had ushered in an age of unparalleled prosperity. None of the financial geniuses took any heed of the warning signs- and then the crash came, the bubble burst.
You would of those these economic 'experts' and commentators might of found something more productive to do with their time but, no, they are still clogging up the media. Unable to accept that the credibility of their beloved neoliberalism has been shot to pieces they keep on talking nonsense about 'the signs of an economic recovery'. Hallelujah! It's a miracle! Televangelist Benny Hinn can't hold a candle to some of the fervent babble coming from the economic gurus of the free market.
So is the US economy really starting to heal? Let's have a look.
The latest official figures show that July was the worst month yet for foreclosures. 8.6 percent of homeowners were delinquent on their mortgages - an increase of 40 percent over July 2008.
It was reported that 360,149 U.S. properties were in foreclosure or delinquent on payments during July 2009. That means one in every 355 American homes was issued a foreclosure notice in July.
About 2.9 million homes nationwide have already been lost to foreclosure and U.S. officials estimate that 2.5 million more people may face foreclosure in the next couple of years,
Does this sound like there's an 'economic recovery' underway in the United States? Hardly.
The other big indicator that the American economy is still deep in the mire are the unemployment figures.
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics said a week or so ago that the number of recorded unemployed people in America reached 14.4 million in August, for an overall rate of unemployment of 9.7 percent. This is about double the number of people unemployed before the recession began in 2007 and the highest rate of joblessness in 50 years.
Another 2.3 million people indicated they were barely working and wanted a job, but were no longer looking. An additional nine million people work part-time because they couldn't find full-time work.. Together, the rate of those who are unemployed and underemployed is 16.8 percent, the bureau said.
Late this month the G20 summit will be held in Pittsburgh. This is where politicians and officials from the world's biggest economies will wonder what the hell they are going to do to further prop up capitalism - the best economic system we can hope for, according to Labour Party leader Phil Goff.
The politicians will be confronted by protests and the Pittsburgh authorities have plans to implement a massive security clampdown - thousands of police officers, National Guard and state troopers will be out on the streets.
The main protest are being led by the Bailout the People movement, together with some trade unions and many grassroots activist groups. As well other groups are still awaiting permits to hold demonstrations - the Pittsburgh authorities are not issuing the permits with any great speed.
The Bailout the People movement points out that ordinary Americans - the people paying the heavy price for the greed of Wall Street - have only received $8.2 billion in financial assistance. In contrast the banks have received a staggering $12 trillion. Approximately $76 billion of that has been paid out in the form of executive bonuses.
Even this figure of $8.2 billion is deceptive because, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, most of this went to state unemployment insurance programs or job training programs—for jobs that don't exist. Just $25 a week went to those receiving the unemployment benefit.
As the New York Times said recently the bailout of banks by taxpayers is a 'partnership in which one partner robs the other.'
The beginnings of an 'American economic recovery'? Don't believe the hype.