Posted tagged ‘recession’


October 7, 2010


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang araw, mga kapamilyang global! Good day, fellow global family members!

Let me echo a theme that has been reverberating among circles of economists in the USA lately: a new cycle of economic crash. I’ve already begun to echo notes about whether the ‘stimulus package’ did its task as effectively as it can to deliver the goods, notes that connect to what the economists have been saying of late.

Among a leading light of the US economist circles is Joseph Stiglitz, former executive at the World Bank. A brilliant and dynamic mind in America, Stiglitz represents a coterie of rare experts who can be adjudged as independent-minded, for most of America’s experts are intellectual prostitutes whose purses are fattened by their loyal patronage of oligarchic and political interest groups.

America’s economists are again echoing the alarm calls about another round or cycle of recession which could lead the USA into a ‘double-dip recession’ the impact of which could be the worst that the U.S. work force will have ever experienced. The alarm call practically resonates with an identical forewarning by European economists on the bigger crash that could happen to Europe’s already burning economy.

The very same experts are very keen observers of the global economy aside from their deep grounding in their own domestic economies, and so the cautionary echoes include Japan’s and Canada’s economies as well. Practically all of the pillars of the Western economy—all powerful members of the OECD—have been receiving alarm calls from their own economists.

Maybe the media should better seek audiences with other experts as well, notably the sociologists and public policy as well, who have been keenly observant of the domestic (USA’s) and global economies. Why not consult the likes of Peter Evans and Theda Skocpol for instance, who have been doing works over the past decades that run parallel to what economists have been doing?

Chances are that the experts across a broad spectrum of the social sciences will end up with parallel if not identical evaluations about the impact of the stimulus package and the directions of the US economy and society.

The last round of financial reforms and a new stimulus package announced by White House recently just don’t seem to fit into the expectations of the noblesse experts who all trace the economic malaise of America to the effects of excessive liberalization reforms. Those reforms saw the diminution of the ‘real economy’, to note: (a) de-industrialization, (b) agricultural decay, (c) infrastructure neglect and collapse, (d) neglect of transport & communications sectors, and (e) decay/erosion of science & technology.

Whether the Bush & Obama stimulus package was able to shore up the collapsing ‘real/physical economy’ is now doubtful. The recent Obama-initiated reforms is only putting some caps on regulation problems for big business and ensuring some fairness in the games of the financial-monetary sectors. The coming tax cuts are added incentives to big business that do not necessarily ensure the revivification of the physical economy.

And that’s where the rub lies in America today. By the very fact that a new ‘stimulus package’ is being prepared in the pipeline means precisely the failure of the recovery program. As already shared by me in a previous article, the pronouncement of a new pump priming package is already causing jitters among portfolio and long-term investors.

With the investment field blurred anew in the USA, the resuscitation of employment to full employment level had been turned into an elusive dream. Whether tax cuts can induce new investments (inclusive of the realty sector), factoring the new financial reforms, will be a raging debate not only in America but among other global observers as well.

I am now of the opinion that Obama has been badly advised by his own economic team about the policy and institutional options for salving the structural ailments of the US economy. Bad advise means the resort to ‘bad economics’, a behavior that is ‘bad science’. Bad science breeds bad practice, and bad practice breeds disasters and catastrophes.

Will Obama and the policy-makers listen to the independent-minded economists this time?


[Philippines, 01 October 2010]







September 22, 2010


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the paradise boondocks south of Manila!

The weather in this tropical area where I reside right today has been so fine for almost two (2) weeks now, and this is unusual for the month of September when four (4) storms pass over the country on the average. At any rate, this makes me a bit happy, enough to ruminate again about the global economy specifically the White House policy pronouncements.

I was among those analysts and development experts in my country who made a go for stimulus packages as core ‘pump priming’ strategy for staving off the ill effects of the global recession. To recall, I even went to the extent of saying my kudos for America’s own stimulus package that was pronounced late by then president Bush and then extended by the new president Obama.

Being all to familiar with pump priming, as I had been witness to how this tool was wielded every time we experienced the pains of spiraling crash right in my own country, I have been all too eager to see the tool be employed judiciously in the Northern countries (EU, USA-Canada, Japan) that have either remained flat growth-wise for successive years or crashed calamitously such as what the USA went through in 2002 and 2007.

The Obama administration had its chance of employing this tool, with no less than $800 Billion as war chest for its execution, and somehow the pump priming proved to have stopped the catastrophic collapse that went on after the implosion of the realty bubble in ‘07. As per my own textbook orientation in macro-economics, it takes two (2) years for a stimulus program to optimize the economy back from appalling sub-optimal performance accountable to a recessionary crash.

The two (2) years since the package was begun by Bush yet will end this month, as far as I can recall the beginnings of it. After the two (2) year gestation period is over, it is standard task for policy-makers and stakeholders to evaluate the overall performance of the measure. The evaluation will unveil what kinks remain that were largely un-addressed by the measure.

It is surprising on my part to learn of the latest pronouncements from the White House that the US president is again ready to launch a new stimulus package on top of the existing one, coming at a time when the first package has never been evaluated to the fullest. The next package includes tax cuts that are but a rehash of the Bush-era stimulus for big business.

I just hope that the pump priming won’t be misconstrued as rendering the stimulus tool into a permanent policy tool. Just by pronouncing that a new stimulus package is on the drawing board can already send jitters to business stakeholders as the pronouncement is a tacit acceptance of the failure to revive the economy as a whole, and that a new round of recession could be in the offing.

Maybe the White House has in mind not only the US economy but also that of its Atlantic partner Europe. Hasn’t the USA been handling fresh cash to Europe to mitigate the bursting of bubbles and gnawing crisis there? Did the White House or Federal Reserve even bother to submit a report to the US Congress about the subsidies to Europe, subsidies that should be hands-me-down to America’s laborers who continue to suffer from the ballooning unemployment in the homeland?

The White House pronouncement is also sending bad signals to Asia’s emerging markets that have already been growing appreciably over the past eight (8) months of the year. Asia’s own stock markets, financial and money markets are trembling over the Obama stimulus news, and there are now silent moves inside board rooms to map out contingency measures in case that the USA will go thru another round of recession in the aftermath of the failure of the first stimulus package to induce totally recovery.

If there is anything I can advise to the White House and Federal Reserve technocrats at this point, it is to desist from making such an untimely measure. Ensure that the most optimal results from the first stimulus package were achieved first of all, report the results to the US congress and the world community, and show clear patterns of transparency in the dealings regarding the pump priming.

If a stimulus package is utilized largely to fatten the purses of corporate executives and owners, who will then use the same to buy new yatch and spend most luxuriously for their board meetings, then the clear message is this: forget about stimulus package!!!

[Philippines, 14 September 2010]







May 25, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Europe is on fire. Save for those who choose to be blind, the Union is going through an incendiary economic burn. How far will the economic burning go, whether it will spread to a larger continental inferno, no one can tell for now.

Before the EU’s creation, welfare policies were prevalent from east to west of the continent. Liberal reforms then arose, commencing with the Tory’s (Thatcher era) wholesale adoption and social marketing of the same, and copied by the conservatives and liberals of the continent alike.

By the turn of the century, upon the commencement of the Euro, liberal reforms already saw the uncontrollable ascent of predatory finance worldwide. Liberalized financial-capital markets paved the way for their immanence.

Among those instruments created by the predators was financial derivatives. To recall, a decade back the derivatives markets were already awash with exposures totaling over $150 Trillion, with 36% of these in the hands of British financiers while 15% were in Americans’ hands.

By 2001, the alarming projection was leaked out that derivatives will be inflated to exceed $350 Trillions within the new decade. At a time when the global economy was producing past the $40 Trillion in Gross World Product or GWP, it was sheer madness to consider debt papers of past $350 that could meltdown the globe in case of a gigantic bubble burst.

Europe was already flat on its back for a straight two (2) decades since after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Periodic stagflations and recessions have seen the rise of poverty incidence and, consequently, the re-emergence of neo-fascist movements.

Being strongly tied up to the U.S. economy, it was not surprising to realize that a contagion of the U.S. recession will surely hit Europe, which did happen. The ugly side of the formula was the aiding of ailing banks that were badly affected by the crisis, an intervention that was flawed and immoral as it entails using taxpayers’ money to aid criminal bank speculators.

Barely out of the U.S. contagion effect, Brussels was shocked to see that a new fire had started within the Eurozone— Greece to be exact. As this was happening, Spain also began to sneeze & cough, as some of its own banks (notably Santander) spiraled down bankruptcy scale. Other member-economies were also having their own financial crucifixions going by the early part of this current year.

If we diagnose what’s going on in the financial sectors of member states, we can easily pinpoint banks as hotspot fire sources. They were heavily into speculative pursuits, with enormous exposures to derivative operations.

Just exactly how that happened can be traceable to certain acts in the North by the mid-80s. Commodities markets have sprung up on that decade, even as a global recession took place then, threatening OECD economies. Liberal reforms were already permeating diverse sectors, and within the backdrop of liberalization, financial derivatives and equivalent portfolios were launched in mass scales.

Banks shed off their previous stance of inhibiting themselves from speculative pursuits. Soon they’d find themselves investing into every speculative games they could lay their hands into, inclusive of hedge funds operations.

Now, to fast track to the present, economists estimate that EU’s aggregate derivatives are within the range of $180-$200 Trillions, estimates that seem conservative. Measure this against the gross domestic product of EU at $13 Trillions, and you would be driven to ask: just exactly where will Europe get the funds to pay the hedged financials in case of bursts and massive bankruptcies?

If all of the hedge funds investors would ask for a forced payment of their total of, say, $200 Trillions more or less, who would pay for such debts? Where will the money come from? Is it morally right to extract taxes from European workers to pay up for the dirty debt papers in case? Is it likewise morally right to impose wage cuts on workers who were not the culprits in the virtual economy game in the first place?

Concerned Europeans should better rethink the Euro and ask whether the new currency really worked for their welfare. It is now clearer that the Euro was a sell-out idea and project, that it was launched to satiate the insatiable pockets of greedy financiers represented by the top financial houses there.

And Europeans better see how silly it is to allocate taxpayers’ money worth $1 Trillion to bail out ailing banks and industries hit by the rising meltdown. For measured against total debt papers of $180-200 Trillions, $1 Trillion would be ridiculously paltry.

Yet another ridiculous intervention is the austerity measure imposed by the IMF on Greece. We’ve had so many precedents of the deleterious effects of such measures on developing economies that aimed at eventually graduating from IMF programs as a salvation measure in the short run. While emerging markets are getting out of a burning house (IMF & austerity measures), Greece voluntarily entered this house. Unbelievable!

As per reports reaching my focals, Germany had the greatest exposures to Greece’s banking sector, with exposures running to hundreds of billions of euros. British financiers, on the other hand, have their hands full in Spain’s banks.

It isn’t difficult to forecast that the fire in Greece could spread to other eurozone economies. Not even the UK, which decided to stay out of the eurozone, will be spared from the bonfire. Spain is almost there now, and who knows what country will be next.

If banks and industrial conglomerates will simultaneously burn in all of the member-states of the eurozone, with total aid claims of past the GDP of $13 Trillions, then Europe will be on the brink of a continental inferno.

Concerned readers better think for yourself whether Brussels and the bureaucrats do have the right answers to the raging problems of Europe. Poverty incidences are now hitting past the 20% mark in member countries, while massive lootings of the financial and currency markets by predatory financiers take place every day in the continent.

Well, let’s all wait and see for what happens. Let us hope that a mad Nero bureaucrat wouldn’t appear to orchestrate the burning farther to infernal scale. That would bring a new nightmare to the whole planet if it happens.

[Philippines, 20 May 2010]







January 26, 2009

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

2009 will be another bleak year economically, more so for the North (USA, EU, Japan are topmost). The recession that began with the subprime mortgage bubble burst in America in 07, will ensue with even mightier turbulence, as there are no coherent policy solutions of a strategic nature that can salve the economic ailment on a global scale.

As already articulated by this economist/analyst in various articles, the policy environment must be changed and regulatory mechanisms strengthened to immediately gain business confidence and reverse the tide of catastrophe. On the domestic front, the solution begins by following a New Deal type of policy set, which will bring back the fervor of production-driven growth and full employment. On the international/global front, a new financial architecture must be agreed upon via a global summit called for the purpose, akin to a New Bretton Woods.

The only intervention mechanisms we observe today are bailouts of failing financial and business institutions, which are toxically immoral as those criminal oligarchs are even rewarded for their sordid looting and corrupt practices. Only Russia and China have openly resorted to a New Deal type solution, in consonance with the practices of the late regime of Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the USA. As far as the international-global front is concerned, the concurrence of a new treaty that will resonate a new financial architecture is nowhere in sight.

In the absence of genuine solutions that can stabilize ailing economies on both the domestic and international fronts, the downward spirals will continue, until the economies of the North will hit rock bottom depression that will be worse than the one that crashed the USA, UK and Germany almost a century ago (USA, UK, Germany were then the world’s top industrial & military powers). In the absence of capital control policies up North, capital flight will ensue at dizzying speed, draining their respective countries of trillions of dollars and/or euros at levels far higher than the 2008 drain.
The smart money that will sneak out will find better shelters in the South (emerging markets notably East Asia + India).

The possibility of North-based companies transferring their headquarters to the South is not entirely ruled out. The other option is for the corporate owners to transfer domicile from the North to the South, leaving their ailing mother companies in the hands of trusted stewards. The era of distance remote control-type management by corporate owners could very well begin this year, which will modify corporate governance by no small means.

The positive light for the global economy is that finally the corporate and state leaders will see light at the end of the tunnel and call for a global conference to carve out a new financial architecture. Laissez faire, a cadaver doctrine before the 2nd world war that was revived by the monetarists and greedy financiers, will finally lay to rest as it gives way to dirigist or interventionist economics.
Stronger regulatory mechanisms may be charted this year too, at least on paper.

New Deal, Keynesian, and welfare state doctrines will be blended together to produce an eclectic admixture. Since New Deal has an international facet into it thus rendering it more comprehensive, as the late FDR cogitated the need for international cooperation and development for all countries to end all wars and foment lasting peace, this doctrine will more or less be followed. We will not be surprised if, after the Davos conference, the shape of the future will already be definitively of the New Deal type.

Conclusively, even if the Northern economies will flatten down to zero and/or negative growths, the downward spiral may stop by the last quarter of the year. The full effects of the intervention solutions won’t be felt this year though, as it will take some more years to get them to galvanize. So let us brace for more turbulent winds, while hoping that the storm would finally stop so we can enjoy a delightful holiday season comes December.

[26 January 2009, Quezon City, MetroManila]


November 15, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!


Let me share to you at this moment some notes regarding the ‘globalization’ experiment and the flawed policies that sustained it. There has been much ballyhoo about the global economy’s integration, over the last three (3) decades, as having been carved out supposedly by the Anglo-Saxon policy architects, using Thatcher & Reagan as the face for the ‘neo-liberal’ policy regime they installed.


Little do peoples across the globe, including experts who are so mired in their own parochial perspectives, know that the liberalization of country economies has a great deal to do with the Zaibatsu offensive. The West should better accept the facts: that their technocrats and policy shapers have run out of fresh ideas since the 1970s onwards (i.e. mentally bankrupt), a gap that they filled up by looking up to Japan and the NICs (newly industrializing countries) for copycat purposes.


Reaganomics, as neo-liberal policies of ‘privatization’ was dubbed (Thatcher of the UK preceded Reagan by a year), is as voodoo as one can get, seductive as any enchanting mantra-resonating principle can be, and was indeed potent in erasing the vestiges of the Regulated Economics doctrines that preceded the era. In the emerging markets, they were dubbed as ‘structural adjustment policies’ or SAPs, were imposed by the IMF-World Bank Group on debtor nations, and can be summed up as follows:


·        Core principles: Privatization, Liberalization, Deregulation

·        Subsidiary Principles: Tax reforms, trade liberalization, free floating exchange rates, diminished state subsidies for welfare, increased utility prices (revenue generation)

·        Governance Principle: Decentralization (local government autonomy)


Such policy reform measures, as far as developing countries or DCs were concerned, came in as very harsh, cruel ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the IMF. We citizens from the ‘margins’ can never forget these measures, the pauperization that they effected, the dislocation of marginal producers, the decline of health services and rise of morbidity rates, and so on. In the Philippines, our very own capital goods industries were either delayed or un-implementable (such as integrated steel), as the money allocated for their purposes simply dried as dictated by the World Bank.


But there’s another set of policy architecture that wasn’t Anglo-Saxon, and didn’t receive their inspiration from the classicists (Smith, Ricardo) and the monetarists (Friedman, Hayek). This set of liberalization policies came from Zaibatsu country, and were crafted by Japanese technocrats. Not only policies, but also institutions were addressed by them, giving rise to the globalized economy that we have today.

Chief among those technocrats was Kenichi Ohmae, who in the 1980s was a think-tank executive. Further down the line were many other technocrats, who were organically linked to the Zaibatsus (landlord-industrialist-financier oligarchs), taking up cudgels for Ohmae.

Globalization, as one better realize, was never meant as any ‘win/win’ formula for nation-states in the arena of international trade as the liberal thinkers came to defend it later. It was outright a strategy to pre-position Zaibatsu corporate interests outside of Japan, notably the U.S. and European markets.  

At that time of conceptualization, Zaibatsus have already efficaciously penetrated the Asian markets, and had leveraged their investments’ entry via aid and technical knowledge diffusion (including sponsoring Developing Country scholars in Japanese universities & special institutes). The old doctrine of ‘Asia Co-prosperity sphere’ was finally won, without firing a shot this time (unlike Imperial Japan era expansionism).

In the 1980s, the clamor for mooring investments and trade in the Western markets became ever stronger. The offensive tactic adapted was rather two-pronged, which made the new voodoo mantra even more potent:

·        On the micro-level, permeate other markets with new concepts such as ‘Theory Z’ (decentralized authority, see W. Ouichi), total quality management or TQM, new tools for strategic planning, mergers and de-mergers. Till these days, the tools are considered sacrosanct in all sectors of society, including the Catholic Church that now uses ‘bottom-up’ planning added to strategic planning (my observations done in 2001-02 in a California diocese).


·        On the macro-level, blend  the Reagan-Thatcher ‘structural adjustments’ with the ‘globalization’ doctrine. The Zaibatsu technocrats fanned out across the globe, some of whom were positioned inside international bodies, and sweetened liberalization via a supposedly ‘win/win’ growth strategy for participating countries. This brilliant blending, which Western thinkers didn’t perceive at all as any subtle tactic by a predatory class (Zaibatsu), soon caught up fire and became buzz word for nigh three decades.  

Before long, the Japan Inc. was being bandied across the globe as worth any country’s emulation. Southeast Asia and Korea went for it. Even the former presidents of the USA admired the Japanese Inc. doctrine of renewed private initiatives and shift from macro- to micro-economics as stabilization and growth measure. Bill Clinton of the USA spoke so fondly of ‘globalization’ like some captive fan of an economic icon, and moved to negotiate the NAFTA.

Little do unsuspecting, gullible peoples across the planet, more so the policy experts of the West, realize that the Japanese voodoo economics was largely intended to permit Zaibatsu investments to breed and morph inside their economies. Using merger and buy-in tactics, the Zaibatsu agents made it appear that their sponsors came in for benign purposes or so. If there is any group in the world today that is enjoying its last laugh, it is the Japanese militarists of the past, who finally saw the success of their nation’s offensives and the decline of the West via ‘organized chaos’.

Around 1994, the magic of the Japan Inc. began to cramble. Recession came, and before long many banks and investment houses were catching fire. That was the origin of the bankrupt and immoral Bush-Paulson ‘bailout’, which began with the ‘crisis management’ tactic in Japan to save ailing banks and financial institutions. Eventually, Zaibatsu technocrats were forced to revive the Western tool of ‘interest rates’ intervention, to the extent of bringing down interest rates to zero percent and sustaining it there for many years.

There also came that moment, in the late 1990s through 2006, when Zaibatsu financiers suddenly were so awash with funds (liquidities), at a time when Western economies reached low growths. The ‘yen initiative’ package was therefore conceptualized as another last-ditch voodoo tactic, which was implemented by loaning out large funds at zero or low interest, which Western financiers than re-loaned at profitable interest rates. Many such funds reached the USA& EU realty subprime mortgage markets, to recall. Again, note the seemingly benign nature of the financial gesture.

Just as when the realty markets were beginning to sneeze in America, the last voodoo measure was pulled out. The ‘crisis management’ was already folded up earlier, as Japan’s economic growth was propelled up anew by the Asian markets notably China’s. Just as when USA & EU needed the Zaibatsu loans very badly, and ditto for portfolio investments, they were pulled out, thus ensuring the crash of both economies.

Japananese voodoo economics is now bowing out, as the compass of policy initiatives at present is pointing to the reconstruction of macro-economic, New Deal type measures intended to attack problems both on short-term (bail out on productive sectors) and long-term basis (induce physical economy rather than predatory finance). But the withdrawal of the voodoo regime is not being done without witnessing its catastrophic results.

That’s surely tragic for the West or North. I wonder how Zaibatsus & technocrats perceive peoples outside their borders: whether they regard the latter as human beings worth co-partnering with, or as hungry lizards that must subsist on crumbs of investments & finance from Japan that have been buttressed by enormous tons of gold acquired through production and plunder of occupied lands, across the 2,000 years of Japan’s existence from kingdom to nation.

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. But if the Zaibatsus are receiving flaks from outside their borders, it wouldn’t be a surprise. There are no more borders for Zaibatsus by the way, just an entire planet with seamless web, cocooned in all corners by their corporate money.  

[Writ 14 November 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]  


October 11, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon, Fellows of Planet Earth!

The planet’s bourses are still plunging as of yesterday (Friday), a day that was dabbed as ‘black Friday’ in Japan which saw the Nikkei plunge by 10%. ‘Bloody Friday’ may be a better term, as the word ‘black’ in ‘black Friday’ could be construed as a racial slur.

This gentleman is among the economists/social scientists in Manila who forecast, way back in the late 1980s yet, that the Western economies led by the USA will experience another horrific depression this decade. We were then following the trends of a yawning gap between the ‘financial economy’ or ‘virtual economy’ and the ‘real economy’ based on the GDP statistics. The American economist Lyndon LaRouche devised a very potent graph of the event which he termed as ‘collapse function’.

As of late 2007, debts in the USA already exceeded the GDP by four (4) times. That means that, in the event of a bubble burst (which came from the realty markets), the economy will come crashing down. It is simply impossible for a $13 Trillion GDP to pay up for debts approximating $50 Trillion last year. In the secondary debt markets, financial derivatives exposures breached the $120 Billion mark in the USA last year, and that all the more exacerbates the weakness and fragility of a $13Trillion economy that simply doesn’t have the money to pay up for ballooning private and public debts.

My own forecast is that the stock market plunge across the globe, which is now in the vogue of a ‘freefall’, will continue till next year yet. At its best, the Dow Jones index reached past 13,000 points about less than a couple of years ago. The same index had already shrunk below 10,000 points at its worst. By next year, the Dow will further shrink by as low as 8,000-8,500 points, the range that actually represents the real value of the entire US economy.

1 Point in the US bourse is equivalent to $1.5 Billion more or less, at its best. A shrunken size would deflate the value to around $1 Billion. At 13,300 points, the Dow index represents a value worth $20 Trillion, which seemingly exceeds the GDP of the entire federation. But that amount is largely speculation, the speculative value exceeding beyond 50% of the real value of the commodity lines traded.

8,500 points in the Dow index would yield, at deflated value, around $8.5 Trilion dollars. That same estimate is the real value of the US economy in GDP terms, per year, as of today. The value of $13 Trillion includes the value of speculation and fiction, on account of the predominance of the ‘virtual economy’.

As I’ve already explained in a previous article, the Bush-Paulson bailout, allocated an amount of $700 Trillion, is a faulty measure to salve the financial ailments of the USA. It follows from the flawed Japanese ‘crisis management’ bailout of huge banks that went in the red last decade, a tragic measure that flattened Japan’s growth to almost zero for around ten years at least. It is a band aid solution to a gargantuan problem that is equivalent to cancer, and everybody knows that band aid doesn’t cure cancer.

That explains the jittery situation of the post-bailout law scenario. Financial traders and investors who still recall well the Japanese fiasco just couldn’t be appeased by a repeat of the same band aid solution, this time to an economy almost three times bigger than Japan’s (in real value). For as long as no strategic solution to the global financial crash is in site, the stock markets will be jittery till next year, and before long we would see both the USA and Europe plunge back to the depression years of the mid-1920s to early 1930s.

Let’s see what will happen to the election fever in the USA. Some liquidity will be produced by the election spending there, and the optimistic pitch created by the electoral situation may somehow drive back the bourses up a bit. That is just a temporary respite from the blazing flames of the crash, rest assured.

[Writ 11 October, 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]


October 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

It’s been some couples of weeks now since the financial downspin in the USA took a further plunge as mega-banks sought help from federal government for rescue. The closure of the Lehman Brothers and the S.O.S. by other big banks that are now in the red rocked the global stock markets to a new round of instabilities and volatilities, even as the US economy is in danger of another Great Depression.

As I’ve already expressed in many articles of mine, the US financial collapse, an event that economists in many parts of the world forecast as early as the 1990s yet, is bound to happen, on account of many factors. The key factor, as this analyst and fellow ‘nationalist economists’ have been saying since 1998 yet (when I was actively involved with a group of economists in Manila called the Independent Review circle), is the widening gap between the (a) ‘virtual economy’ based on predatory finance that produces mere fictitious values and the (b) ‘real economy’ or ‘physical economy’ that produces real values.

The serial liberal economic reforms that began in 1971 yet, which saw the collapse of the gold standard and the dropping of fixed exchange rate (FER) in favor of ‘floating rate’, and onwards through the liberalization-privatization-deregulation-decentralization (structural adjustment policies or SAPs) of the 1980s, and onwards to the GATT-Uruguay Rounds that created the WTO in 1994, took its catastrophic toll on the economies of the planet, but most specially the USA’s.

The Nixon-era financial-monetary reforms and the Reaganomics (SAPs) were the policy culprits of America. They dealt the final death blows on the dirigist policies of New Deal, initiated by Franklin Roosevelt but which was inspired by dirigist policies of earlier luminaries (i.e. Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Friedrich von List), provided the impetus that created the strong, gigantic ‘physical economy’  of the country, and transformed it into a world power economically, politically and culturally. Without dirigist economics (interventionist) and the New Deal, Middle Class America wouldn’t have been possible. The neo-liberal reforms simply wiped out whatever was left of the New Deal by the 1980s, and with the liberalization of the financial –capital-monetary markets, the predatory financiers had their field day of looting the middle class purses under the rubric of portfolio capital and derivatives operations.

Had the US policy makers just labored a bit and assigned their staff to scour the world for some related experience of bank-financial collapse, their researchers could have easily ‘discovered’ the experiences of Japan in the 1990s. By the early 1980s, when Japan clearly demonstrated its sterling industrial and technological capabilities as the base for its wealth production, the Zaibatsus and the policy makers decided to go the liberalization way, confident as they were that the fruits of decades-old ‘physical economy’ build up can’t just be easily wiped out by predatory financier operators.

Japanese technocrats (both in Japan and overseas) also theorized that the key to producing a sound, healthy, mighty Japanese economy was in the realm of micro-economics more than public policy. Never mind if the policy environment will shift from the protectionist-dirigist policies of the post-war decades to liberal policies, provided that at the level of production and organization, capacity and internal potency can be demonstrated. The likes of William Ouichi’s ‘theory z’ comes to mind, or ideas that spawned strategies and tools dovetailing on quality control, team building, and decentralized operations. The world was so awe-inspired by the ‘Japan Incorporated’ model that was based precisely on the micro-economic route, and was extolling the Japanese corporate firm to the hilt as the new champion of the globalizing economy.

The USA that had demonstrated its strength on macro-economics—In the terrain of public policy—as the route to economic might, must have been seduced by the Japanese ideological onslaught at one point, that it so sonorously echoed the Japanese technocratic jargon of ‘globalization’. But when Japan’s financial system began to buckle down in 1994, which then impacted on the rest of the economic sectors, the US politicians and technocrats simply didn’t pay attention, fixated as they were to the seductive results of the ‘virtual economy’ (bubble operations) on the GDP of America.

To recall, Japan suffered miserably for the bailout mistake it pursued. Dabbed as ‘crisis management’, the state went on a binge of saving ailing banks and financial houses, the very same measures that the Bush-Paulson team is now embarking on. Alarmed at those events than in Japan, which led to a 10-year recession & almost zero growth, I began to raise howl about the ballooning portfolio investments in the Philippines by 94-95, and was among those experts who forewarned the state officials that Japan’s ‘crisis management’ was seriously flawed, was tantamount to giving incentives to looters instead of criminalizing, them, and should never be enforced in the Philippines or ASEAN in case that the portfolio bubble will burst in Manila and the region (the bubble burst in 1997).

To repeat: Japan suffered miserably from that fiasco. Recession howled like unstoppable forest fires for ten (10) years, and were it not for the high growth of East Asian markets, Japan couldn’t have risen back to appreciable growth by 2005. Interest rate was compelled to be brought down to zero percent, a precedent that many countries affected by financial meltdowns were aloof to emulating. Bankruptcies,  corporate closures and downsizing led to dislocations and unemployment. For the first time in many decades, former decent Japanese executives and employees who lose their jobs and had their remaining mortgaged properties confiscated, were rendered homeless and starving, and forced to reside in the streets as paupers and vagabonds..   

Sitting with my fellows in the Independent Review circle from 1997-onwards, we took turns in exposing the maladies of the neo-liberal reforms, spoke in diverse media (TV, radio) to forewarn the public of the imminent financial collapse in East Asia (the meltdown took place beginning in June of ’97), and by 98 were of the consensus that the USA was next in line for a meltdown of even catastrophic proportions than either Japan’s or South East Asia’s (97 meltdown). The very destructive effects of predatory finance saw the decline of industry (de-industrialization), agriculture (land use conversions, decay), infrastructures (some huge infra were even privatized), S & T (low priority in budgets & education), and transport & communications in the USA. If the neglect of the ‘physical economy’ will continue for another ten (10) years, it will be too late for salving the US economy as a whole. Any catastrophic bubble burst and financial-monetary meltdown could bring the economic house down, collapse consumption, and render the US economy much like unto a Latin American economy past 2010.

 As I recall then, we experts from the Independent Review circle strongly opined that the ‘crisis management’ tactic was immoral and extremely perverted. How in the world could the state ever reward criminals at all? The bankers and financiers looted the Japanese purse by probably worth trillions of dollars, they should have been criminalized for their sordid crimes, and yet they were even rewarded! Unbelievable! This is one excellent narrative for the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Fortunately for the Philippines, there was no large-scale bailout of any bank as a result of the 1997 Asian meltdown. Those realty and construction companies affected by the crisis, affected precisely because they over-exposed themselves to ‘hot money’ foreign portfolios that simply dried up as the same portfolios were pulled during the first month of the meltdown, were immediately able to cope up by retooling and re-engineering their strategies and tools. Interest rates were lowered, excess liquidities were flashed out in well managed manner that deserve our central bank accolades from the Bank of International Settlements. In less than a year after the meltdown began, we were back to consumption patterns like there was no recession at all. We didn’t take the Japan route, luckily. By 2001 and onwards our growth patterns were back to appreciable growth, and the local bourse moved up as well.

Today, all over the ASEAN + China-India-Korea (minus Japan), the Asian meltdown seems like an ancient event down memory lane as things have been moving fast. We just can’t believe that our mighty economic partner, the USA, didn’t learn its lessons from the 2001 recession there and from the flaws of the Japanese bailout. ‘Bailing out the rich’ isn’t the issue here, but rather ‘bailing out the criminals’ which is a gross disincentive for the legitimate SMEs and other market players that didn’t receive the same favor.

If we were to seriously search for appropriate short-term tactic for salving ailing financial institutions, the answer lies in a proven approach to corporate ailments: bankruptcy reorganization. The economists Robert Reich (former US secretary of Labor) and Lyndon LaRouche (Executive Intelligence Review) have been airing this solution very strongly, and I am myself bent on accepting this micro-economic short-term solution as an exemplar for the rest of the world. I would not be surprised if the eminent economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman would air a similar advisory, and they should better air their counsel strongly.

The entire planet today is watching the horrific bailout in the USA, almost forgetting that this copycat bailout already flattened Japan for a decade at least before. Each one of us should look at our own backyards and make sure that our respective states won’t emulate the rather devious and insane bailout of Japan Incorporated and the Bush-Paulson team.

[Writ 04 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]