Counterpunch | June 23 2016
The Slow Crash: When Global Economies are Run by Banks
I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: The Slow Crash. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, as well as at Peking University. His 1972 book, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest book isKilling the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy. Due out soon, “J Is for Junk Economics.” Today we discuss in detail the concept of debt deflation; housing, student loan and automobile debt; the oil market; the stock market; negative interest rates; currencies; and the shrinking real economy.
Bonnie Faulkner: Michael Hudson, welcome.
Michael Hudson: It’s good to be here again, Bonnie.
Bonnie Faulkner: You have indicated that as a result of United States and European debt deflation, there is an economic slowdown. First of all, how would you define deflation?
Michael Hudson: There are two definitions of deflation. Most people think of it simply as prices going down. But debt deflation is what happens when people have to spend more and more of their income to carry the debts that they’ve run up – to pay their mortgage debt, to pay the credit card debt, to pay student loans.
Today, people are having to spend so much of their money, to acquire a house and to get an education that they don’t have enough to spend on goods and services, except by running into yet more debt on their credit cards and other borrowings.
The result is that markets are slowing down. Deflation means a slowdown of income growth. Markets shrink, new capital investment and employment also taper off, so wages decline. That is what’s happening as deliberate policy in Europe and the United States. Falling or stagnant prices are simply the result of having less income to spend.
Bonnie Faulkner: Well, thank you for that, because that is confusing, because I think a lot of people consider deflation simply a decrease in price. Does that have anything to do with it?
Michael Hudson: The price decline is a result of having to pay debts. That drains income from the circular flow between production and consumption – that is, between what people are paid when they go to work, and the things that they buy. Deflation is a leakage from this circular flow, to pay banks and the real estate, called the FIRE sector – finance, insurance and real estate. These transfer payments leave less and less of the paycheck to be spent on goods and services, so markets shrink. Some prices for some products go down when people can’t afford to buy them anymore. There are more sales, there’s shrinkage, but especially incomes go down. Real incomes in the United States have been drifting down for 30 years because there is slower and slower market demand.
That’s why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are getting so many votes. When Hillary Clinton said she’s going to do just what Obama does and we’re going to continue to recover, most people know that we’re not recovering at all. We’re shrinking.
Bonnie Faulkner: So then, deflation has more to do with disposable income than it does with prices.
Michael Hudson: That’s correct, and that’s what is rarely pointed out. People tend to think that paying a debt is like going out and buying a car, buying more food or buying more clothes. But it really isn’t. When you pay a debt to the bank, the banks use this money to lend out to somebody else or to yourself. The interest charges to carry this debt go up and up as debt grows. As you have to pay more interest and amortization on what you owe, you’re left with less and less money to buy goods and services – unless you borrow even more and go further into debt.
Continue reading U.S. Economy is Shrinking: Unemployment Goes up, Wages Go Down, Living Standards Decline