Credit crunch recession caused by Iraq war
The American economy is now in recession. A slew of new data clearly reveals both a marked downturn in activity, combined with a rise in inflation — something not seen since the stubborn “stagflation” period of the 1970s.
Some economists expect a robust return to growth later in the year off the backs of aggressive rate cuts by the Fed, and a financial package from the President that will see cheques delivered to taxpayers — and others on low incomes — by June.
That may not be enough, especially as it’s now emerging that the Iraq war is the principal cause of worldwide recessionary trends from two directions : the rise in the price of oil, and the low interest rates that led to reckless lending to the sub-prime market.
A new book by Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz powerfully demonstrates these effects. The Three Trillion Dollar War — The True Cost Of The Iraq Conflict outlines the immense downside across the globe of what must now be deemed a policy catastrophe.
In terms of the current credit crunch, which arose out of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, many — including Syntagma — had blamed Alan Greenspan, then Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, for keeping rates too low for too long. Combined with steeply rising house prices this gave the banks a one-way bet for lending to the trailer-park poor.
However, it’s becoming clear that the low-rate regime was engineered to mask the terrifying cost to the American economy of the wars in the Middle East.
We can now begin to assess the extent of the disaster to American interests the war is continuing to inflict. The conflicts have led to a strengthening of Gulf, Chinese and other sovereign wealth funds, which have bought up large chunks of prime U.S. assets, including blue-chip bank stock, while, in some cases, simultaneously enjoying a bonanza from higher and higher oil prices.
In ten years, bank stocks should prove exceptionally rich investments as they recover from current adverse credit conditions. The war has given secretive foreign funds a one-way bet.
It’s hard to estimate the effect all this will have on American power and influence around the world. A war that was meant to eliminate Al Qaeda and secure the world’s oil supplies, has had precisely the opposite effect.
Joseph Stiglitz works out the numbers and they make depressing reading.
The news that stagflation is reappearing on the scene is another blow for the West’s economic stability. Stiglitz’s book is required reading for all who want to understand the future of the global economy over the next two decades and the causes of the misery to come.
This is going to be a long haul.