By Quin Hillyer at the Washington Examiner on Oct. 26;

It’s time to game-plan against an economic crisis.

With a volatile stock market down between 7 and 9 percent (depending on which index you consider) just since Oct. 3, and with Bank of America saying 14 of 19 bear-market signals have been triggered already, the question becomes how policymakers should respond if the whole economy starts to stumble.

I’ve been predicting all year that October, quite specifically, would see the beginning of significant economic problemsrisking a full-blown crisis. Despite a 400-point Dow bounce-back on Thursday, the overall numbers for October remain horrible; furthermore, both Amazonand Alphabet/Google issued disappointing reports after Thursday’s closing bells on Wall Street, foreshadowing a steep drop upon Friday’s market opening.

If the volatility and downward trend turns into a rout, panic could set in. To fight it off will require smart, strong action. To be smart, policymakers must understand what’s causing the problems.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer, usually perspicacious about these things, agrees with me that two of the biggest causes are President Trump’s trade threats and Trump’s irresponsible verbal attacks on the Federal Reserve. Then, amid a host of other contributing factors I’ve identified, by far the largest and most dangerous is the worst combined public and private debt load in the United States and around the world since World War II.

Ordinarily, times of full employment in the United States are associated with low annual deficits, because tax revenues should be up while the need for social spending is down. Instead, a profligate White House and Congress (controlled by supposed fiscal conservatives) just posted a stunningly high Fiscal Year 2018 deficit of $782 billion. If this is the baseline deficit when the economy has been roaring (or soaring on a sugar high), and if total national debt already exceeds 100 percent of gross domestic product, then there’s no room for resort to the usual (wrongheaded) Keynesian fiscal stimuli to goose things up again….

[The full column is here.]

 

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