Great Recession Leaving Tracks

 

  At his rented home in Lehigh Acres, James Mould sells items that families in the area tossed out before moving

As  the Great Recession/Depression II plays out, it’s leaving tracks almost everywhere imaginable.  How this event impacts any particular person really depends upon how leveraged (indebted) one was and whether or not one was able to retain gainful employment. 

Like the Great Depression of the late 1920’s, our current economic malaise is really a story of speculation and excessive leverage combined.  Leverage when asset prices are rising can magnify gains but when asset prices drop, what was formerly a lever turns into a hammer and debt becomes particularly burdensome to service when the underlying asset price collapses and income declines.  In addition to the trail of tears that individuals and businesses have encountered, the “hammer” also drives legal activity and as evidenced by New York State’s courts having closed 2009 with  a record 4.7 million cases involving bad debts, failed business deals, real estate tax appeals and foreclosures.    Apparently, the New York’s experience is representative of what’s occurring in other states around the nation as well.

Meanwhile homeowners in Florida who purchased at the peak almost feel as if they were victims of a Ponzi scheme as the real estate market has literally crashed in certain counties.  Median home prices in Lee County Florida in 2007 were $ 278,000 and now the median is about $ 90,000; a drop of nearly 70%.  Anyone who has seen such a dramatic drop off will simply choose to walk away and allow the mortgagor to foreclose.  Apparently, the employment picture has dimmed so badly in this area, that parents were going to school with their kids to share in school breakfasts.  The states that lead the boom (California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona) now lead the bust.

Bankruptcy attorneys and real estate agents specializing in selling foreclosed properties are experiencing a boon in business.  There are some real estate agents who been able to cut exclusive deals with mortgage companies to sell their inventories of foreclosed properties and there are some investors who are snapping them up in all cash deals.

Without food stamps we’d probably be starving,” said Rex Britton, who has had trouble finding paving work and lives with his girlfriend, Amy Freeman.

Food security is becoming a concern for many people, including those who formerly enjoyed six figure incomes.  Isabel Bermundez was formerly a high earning realtor who now has no cash income and she and her two daughters now survive on food stamps.  In Florida, the number of people on with no cash income beyond food stamps has doubled.  The growth in the number of people using food stamps is also mirrored  nationwide. 

 Ignacio Sanchez, a day laborer who has a wife and children in Mexico, in the Queens freight train underpass where he found shelter.

Even illegal immigrants who work as day laborers have felt the heat.  Many are homeless and hungry as the work they were formerly doing has dried up.  This has spawned a reverse migration as many illegals have just gone back home.  The thinking is that things are better at home than they are here.

Governments have not been exempted from the problems of individuals and businesses. The state of California is a prime example of a government in crisis as it seeks help from the federal government to close a $ 21 billion budget gap and threatens that it will have to cut social services if it doesn’t get help.  The federal government’s fiscal condition is no better.  It’s merely masked by the ability to run deficits and print money.  Government solvency issues aren’t limited to problems here in the US as the Eurozone faces a debt crisis as well.

One thing is for sure, this is not your daddy’s relatively benign and quick “V-shaped”  recession.  Make no mistake, this is your granddaddy’s Great Depression and the shape of the letter that would accurately characterize it is an L;  a recovery won’t come in sight until the excess is wrung out of the system.  It will be a long time coming.

The best thing we can do as individuals is cut spending and, if necessary, secure one’s own food supply.  I think this is particularly important for anyone getting food stamps.  Those who find themselves dependent on government largess will soon find that there’s a limit to what the government can pay for as it encounters its own problems with solvency. 

  • http://diasporablack.blogspot.com/ Black Diaspora

    “The best thing we can do as individuals is cut spending and, if necessary, secure one’s own food supply. I think this is particularly important for anyone getting food stamps. Those who find themselves dependent on government largess will soon find that there’s a limit to what the government can pay for as it encounters its own problems itself with solvency. ”

    You have an intelligent, and thoughtful blog. Keep up the good work. It may take a while to build up a readership, but you’re on the right track.

    For some, your advice is right on. But if this economy is going to turn around, anytime soon, it’s going to take spending–either my spending money, or you spending, or government spending.

    To do my part, I stopped hoarding, and started spending. I’m doing it for all those people that you’ve identified, who’re looking to government largess to stay afloat.

    If we spend, we help offset the economic down turn, and create jobs for our neighbors. For the same reason, I’m now investing in my neighborhood credit union.

    Like others, my mortgage is under water, but, as long as I can make the monthly payments, I won’t use foreclosure as the remedy. That exacerbates the problem.

    In time, prices will go up again. Speculators will see to that.

    For the long haul, we need to look at how we got here, and fix what’s broken.

    Laissez faire economics, a Republican’s wet dream, can’t continue to monopolize our economy, and the term, “free market,” continue to be synonymous with “free” to do as you will, and “free” to get away with whatever you can.

    Had we supervised and regulated derivatives, and some other market excesses, this economy wouldn’t be on its knees begging for bailouts, and, for some, undeserved handouts.

    • Greg L

      Hi BD, thanks for dropping by. Thanks for the encouragement! Like most folks here, I like to write, so doing that is a reward in and of itself, so it’s a particular treat when anyone actually reads and comments on my musings.

      I’m spending as well but focused primarily on what my family actually needs. We’ll get a few wants as well, but unfortunately, a lot of stuff is made abroad, so it’s an open question how much our spending can actually spur domestic employment until we’re actually making stuff here in the US. It seems to me that this is the basic problem. As we moved towards a more financial type economy, a number of things were done to boost stock prices which increasingly meant cutting costs by outsourcing a lot of the things that used to be done here.

      I agree with your assessment that closer supervision of the securities markets would have gone a long way to prevent the current situation we’re in. I’d probably extend that supervision to the Federal Reserve as well. Most folks would prefer that the Fed be politically independent, but I believe that they’ve proven that they’re clueless as their incessant money printing combined with lack of oversight of the securities markets were at the center of the crisis. Unfortunately, when we talk about supervision, the question becomes who does it and that’s where I’m at a loss. I’m not especially confident in the ability of our government to handle this sort of thing.

      I think many people will begin to focus on their local economy as you’ve done by moving your money to a credit union. That’s the sort of move that allows one to move away from supporting the large financial oligarchs who’ve contributed little to most people, but remain at the government trough.

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