Explaining the Stock Market Sell-Off

The economic laws Obama ignores.

Last week, President Obama spoke about the causes of the current economic disaster area we are experiencing in America.  “In the last few months, the economy has already had to absorb an earthquake in Japan, the economic headwinds coming from Europe, the Arab Spring and the [rise] in oil prices — all of which have been very challenging for the recovery.”  Obama forgot to blame unicorns, the price of tea in China, and the decay of the moon cheese.

In other words, none of this had very much to do with the state of the economy at all. The economy has been in rotten shape for the entirety of his administration.  He has created no new jobs on net; his policies have not spurred new industries or investment.  In fact, President Obama’s artificial inflation of the economy through measures designed to prop up the real estate market and the financial markets have destroyed our ability to get out of the current recession.  Instead, we’re falling into a double dip – and if we continue these policies, the double dip will become a triple dip.

Don’t be fooled by Friday’s faux unemployment statistics, which suggest that 117,000 jobs were created this month.  Actually, the American work force lost 38,000 workers last month.  The real unemployment rate, which includes “discouraged workers,” is actually at 16.1 percent.  Duration of unemployment is now at 40.4 weeks – once you lose your job, it stays lost.  President Obama has more than doubled the number of unemployed for more than six months during his term.  Nearly 46 million people are on food stamps – just under one sixth of the US population.  Meanwhile, despite the debt ceiling increase we were told would magically fix our problems, Standard & Poor’s downgrade our sovereign long-term credit rating from AAA to AA+.  China is already saying they will begin weaning the US from its borrowing as soon as humanly possible.

President Obama has spent more money than any president in American history -- and nothing has come of it.  He has escalated baseline spending by trillions.  He has dumped billions of dollars worth of treasuries on the market in order to grab cash to spend.  He has inflated the currency.  He has offered “solutions” to the real estate crisis that largely amount to keeping those who can’t afford houses in those houses, while those who can afford houses sit on the sidelines.  Then he blames corporations for not offering jobs that shouldn’t exist to people who can’t create value.  Oh yes, and he blames the waves in Japan.

Wonder why so much capital is sitting on the sidelines, President Obama?  It’s because we know that the market hasn’t reached rock bottom yet.

In the late 1970s, America suffered from what was quickly termed “stagflation” – inflation and economic stagnation.  Up until then, many on the left thought that stagflation was a definitional impossibility – if we inflate the currency, their logic goes, then the economy will grow, since we all have more money to spend.  They believed that high unemployment only went hand in hand with deflation – the higher value of money and the higher interest rates associated with it.

Still, stagflation became a reality for one simple reason: when the market drops and it is not allowed to hit rock bottom, capital waits it out.  Think about this in your daily life.  If you know that the supermarket is artificially inflating the price of Corn Flakes – and if you can survive without Corn Flakes for a week –the price will go down.  In the book market, we see this all the time: people wait for the paperback to come out so that they don’t have to spend quite so much on the hardcover.

The same principle holds true in real estate or investment finance.  If the government keeps bad borrowers in their houses, the supply of available housing is artificially low.  That keeps prices up.  Smart investors wait until those bad borrowers go bankrupt, and then they buy.  That’s also true in the investment market: why invest in new workers if you know that their price is being artificially stimulated by government subsidies?  Eventually those subsidies will go away, and the price will go down for labor again.

So why was the stock market so high this year?  Because the inflation in the currency caused people to run to invest in other commodities that would move up and down with the tides of the currency.

And why is the stock market now tanking?  Because with the stagnant GDP – we are now in a minute or even negative growth period – people have no faith that companies will find a ready market for their goods.  The assumption was that stagflation would not occur.  Now the market knows that is wrong.

My good friend Bob Bonelli is a top finance guru.  I discussed this situation with him at length this week.  As he pointed out to me, in order to reduce the real unemployment rate 1%, GDP would have to grow 5% for the full year.  That can’t happen with the current system of governance.  Bob also told me he’d received a tweet from a follower this week: “Bob, can President Obama solve this economy with a speech?”  Bob tweeted back: “Actually, a short speech would do it: ‘I am leaving office today!’”

Bob is right.  If we want to know why the stock market dropped last week, all we have to do is look to the White House, where President Obama is busy eating burgers and partying with his Hollywood hip hop buddies.  If he really wants to serve the country, he can just get out of the way.