LIVE STREAM: 12:15pm EST – Is the US the “Least Dirty Shirt”?


PIMCO’s Bill Gross calls the U.S. economy the “least dirty shirt.” To borrow from a Flight of the Concords song, you might say that the U.S. is The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room. By virtue of every other economy in the room looking worse and worse, the United States is looking better and better.
European economies are struggling with austerity measures and will for months and years ahead. A Greek crisis has turned into an EU sovereign debt crisis, which threatens the very existence of the monetary union. Japan is stuck in deflationary territory.
By comparison, it appears the U.S. has played its cards right. We implemented a massive fiscal stimulus package and poured money from the Federal Reserve into the global economy. But, these measures look temporary and unsustainable. Policy to boost consumption was based on the flawed assumption that households would be able to resume consumption once the recession ended. But, the reality of the post-bubble economy is that Americans without jobs who have lost home equity and access to credit may have to permanently change behavior. A recovery in financial assets has helped repair the balance sheets of those at the high end and Wall Street banks, but has left the vast American middle dependent on government income support.
Tune in in about an hour as Steve Clemons moderates a discussion with Simon Johnson, author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown and Robert Kuttner, author of A Presidency in Peril. I would bet these authors have something to say on the “least dirty shirt” thesis. We may be the least dirty shirt today, but there is no telling that we are not sowing the seeds of the next financial crisis or relying too heavily on a recovery in financial assets at the expense of job creation and sustainable growth.

— Samuel Sherraden


20 comments on “LIVE STREAM: 12:15pm EST – Is the US the “Least Dirty Shirt”?

  1. Giggle T says:

    drew makes some goods points. He’s right that Greece’s economic collapse could be a blessing in disguise.
    In response to the artivle, we really do need to be concerned about our own national debt. Just because other countries’ economies look terrible compared to ours does not mean that ours is any great shape. Our bond rating may fall, putting us in the same situation as Greece and most of Europe. We need to stimulate the economy (I don’t think these stimulus bills worked as well as people think) and we need to decrease the debt. I can’t remember where I read this, but it’s estimated that by 2015 the national debt could be 50% larger than the GDP. We have to act now to prevent that.


  2. questions says:
    Haven’t watched this, have no idea what it will show and no time to look for now.


  3. questions says:

    OT – sort of — worth reading:
    Cohen on Israel.
    14 year old Mexican kid shot by border guards in US.
    We often think force works, we should often know better. Sometimes the direct path is the least efficient and most inhumane. Stopping people from moving but not stopping money from moving is problematic (see Saskia Sassen).
    Check out Carly Fiorina’s read of Barbara Boxer’s hairstyle — note that Fiorina went through chemo and didn’t emerge with humanity intact.
    Do a youtube search for BP Spills Coffee — amusing!
    Note that the Gulf oil spill was not something BP took into account cost-wise, and note that in the same news cycles there have been significant criticisms of the Centers for Disease Control and WHO over the H1N1 vaccine program.
    We do not know how to evaluate risk, but we do know that if we try prevention and pay for prevention and nothing happens, the preventers will be lampooned.
    We know that if the worst happens, we deal with it however poorly.
    Externalities are a capitalist’s best friend.
    We know that Israel is in prevention mode and being in prevention mode is lampoonable.
    We think Israel is insane. BP thought blowout prevention was insane. The WHO is being accused of some level of corruption.
    How do we parse any of this? What do we do about threat and risk and imagination and crazy right wing and left wing CTs? What’s crazy and what isn’t?
    If anyone has an answer to any of this, I will personally nominate you for some major world prize of some sort, for you will have solved the problem of induction.
    Barring solving THAT problem (which, by the way, is at the heart of the Wall Street quant practice that led to the meltdown in the housing market)–barring solving the problem of induction, we are left to muddle about, shooting one another at the border while we evaluate the stupidity of our policies.
    May we have the flexibility of imagination to find our way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.
    And may some politicians somewhere not use every structurally determined position to increase his or her own power at the expense of decency. (Yeah, right.)
    And may Alvin Greene find some peace in his very odd quest for Senate.


  4. Sweetness says:

    There was plenty of murder, mayhem, and rape before the Federal
    Reserve and “fiat money.” Tying the money supply to a limited
    resource like gold makes no sense when the population is
    exploding. The value of gold is no less arbitrary than the value of
    bits and bytes in the Fed’s computers.


  5. ... says:

    drew – it is just just the politicians and central bankers, it is the war mongers as well!!!!!!!!!! their is a direct relationship with war and money… murder, kill and rape over a country and then go rebuild it… that is modern finance at this moment in time based on the usa’s actions..


  6. drew says:

    Don S, I above improperly blur the line between the fiscal and
    monetarist dysfunction. We bond (borrow) to fund our deficit-
    running fiscal obligations; we print to reduce the cost of repaying
    that debt, and to do these wild, careening interventions such as last
    year’s (which for some reason, despite their using our money, we
    are not allowed to audit).
    We are extremely lucky that Greece went broke, because it is
    popularizing an awareness (beyond the Tea Party) of the ‘no free
    lunch’ reckoning that the politicians and central bankers can’t seem
    to attend.


  7. nadine says:

    “In any case I think I catch your major point that wealth creation is not the same as printing (or borrowing) money. In fact, doing so diminishes wealth.” (Don Bacon)
    Wow, in that case, you’re way ahead of the Obama administration.


  8. Mr.Murder says:

    Will the White House be blamed for News Leaks, or Oil Leaks? Both!


  9. ... says:

    don bacon – borrowing is just the way the game gets played to continually keep it going… bail out is a little later in the game and it signifies people are starting to catch on to the game..


  10. ... says:

    drew 8:41pm comment – i agree..
    andrew quote from above “canada’s crazy socialist single-payer healthcare system.”
    i suppose the usa system is so much better since it is not socialist??????????
    how’s bp capitalism for ya then?? that’s free market capitalism at work for ya i suppose…
    geez, i can think of worse systems to be enamoured with…


  11. Mr.Murder says:

    Fugly is the new black.
    GDP measurement for the USA was allowing us to reflect gains on outsourced items for companies that imported their wares during Bushco.
    We’ve been in negative territory for a while now in real terms.


  12. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks for that, drew, but if they’re just printing money and distributing it, then how does the borrowing come in? And as I understand it, the government borrows not only from external sources but also from itself somehow (which is where the printing comes in, I suppose).
    In any case I think I catch your major point that wealth creation is not the same as printing (or borrowing) money. In fact, doing so diminishes wealth.


  13. drew says:

    “By comparison, it appears the U.S. has played its cards right. We
    implemented a massive fiscal stimulus package and poured
    money from the Federal Reserve into the global economy.”
    Since 1913 (advent of the Federal Reserve) the dollar has lost
    98% of its value. It is because of actions such as this, and
    startlingly ignorant statements such as the one I quote above,
    that it has done so.
    The Federal Reserve and its “dollars” are simply nominal
    constructions. Printing money is not the same thing as
    distributing objects of value. The tooth fairy can pour money
    into the financial system, too. The tooth fairy has as much ability
    to create stores of value as the Fed. While the Fed shored up an
    accounting-based version of financial health, by recapitalizing
    banks with accounting dollars, they are in truth just fabricating
    dollars and borrowing from future generations. These are
    simply wealth transfers from citizens to government-favored
    industries. When the government dilutes the value of your
    dollars, they are just taking your property from you.


  14. Don Bacon says:

    “Americans . . . may have to permanently change behavior.”
    Yes, like work longer hours as temporary workers for less pay and no health benefits, or not work at all for no pay and no health benefits.
    But hey, I own some stocks and they’ll do fine as US corporations out-source production and labor to jack up productivity and profits. Meanwhile, dumping on the banks won’t cure the problem. Besides, I like banks and keep some of my money in them, which isn’t unusual. (It isn’t much, either.)


  15. JohnH says:

    “The least dirty shirt” evokes the “lesser of two evils” at the ballot box. In the latter case one of the evils, powered by Big Money, always wins…


  16. DonS says:

    Those familiar with Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” realize that the “cleanest dirty shirt” is not a happy vision.
    Even those with ‘recovered’ financial assets are definitely not all in the same boat. Let’s face it, just as there are degrees of poverty, there are degrees of being well off. Now at the higher end a lot has to do with 1) living style and 2) personal debt to finance that lifestyle. Short of that, many ‘comfortable’ folks are still looking over their shoulders, waiting for the next shoe to drop, to appropriately double a metaphor. As to the really wealthy, the one’s to whom Rockefeller in the cliche “if you have to ask you can’t afford it”, we don’t even speak of them (and of course, financial richness has escalated to the point where the purchase of consumables isn’t even a measure of wealth).
    As to Canada. While their GDP may be tied with the US, and the psychology to a large extent, 1) they do have universal health care and 2) their banking system is far more rational and relatively rock solid. That alone creates a good degree of psychological well being.


  17. Don Bacon says:

    Nope, Canada is tied with the US at -2.4%.


  18. Andrew says:

    Canada is in a far better position than the U.S. Even with the crazy socialist single-payer healthcare system.


  19. Andrew says:

    Canada is in a way better position that the U.S. Even with the crazy socialist single-payer healthcare system.


  20. Don Bacon says:

    real GDP growth rates
    from the CIA World Factbook
    1 China 10
    2 Qatar 9.5
    3 Azerbaijan 9.3
    4 India 8.5
    6 Congo, Republic of the 7.5
    7 Timor-Leste 7.4
    8 Gibraltar 7
    9 Lebanon 7
    10 West Bank 7
    151 USA -2.4


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