THE BLOG
07/07/2010 12:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Belief that U.S. Is in an Economic Depression Is Growing

Paul Krugman and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Join the Chorus of Gloom and Doom

Just in the past week, economic media pundits as diverse as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the international business editor for the British newspaper, the Telegraph, have warned that the United States is already in the initial phases of an economic depression. Their chilly characterization of the U.S. economy after more than a year of the Obama stimulus, preceded by TARP, is sterile in its uninhibited gloominess.

In the case of Paul Krugman, his focus is on the disastrous unemployment rate in America, and his conviction that fiscal crisis and deficits be damned, the U.S. must borrow and spend whatever it takes to drive down the unemployment rate, or face an even more grave economic emergency. As I have stated before, while I concur with Krugman's description of the American economy, I don't think his prescription is supportable, based on the mathematical realities and the fact that excessive private debt sparked the global financial and economic crisis.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's most recent column had the melancholy headline, "With the U.S. trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932." He lays out the case for why the U.S. is in the throes of a depression; dismal home and retail sales, collapsing state budgets and the resulting fiscal cuts abetting even more bad economic indicators. In his eyes, the only hope are the central banks engaging in another round of quantitative easing (being dubbed by some as QE 2) and debt monetization, the inevitable inflation actually being preferable to a deflationary spiral.

What is clear from reading these two esteemed economic observers is that very intelligent economists are losing hope over the state of the U.S. economy (which also means the global economy) and in their despair are grasping at extraordinary policy measures that are likely to further exacerbate all the macro-economic indicators they are rightfully perturbed by. The concluding comments in Evans-Pritchard's column sum up the dire gloom that permeates his appreciation of the situation:

Perhaps naively, I still think central banks have the tools to head off disaster. The question is whether they will do so fast enough, or even whether they wish to resist the chorus of 1930s liquidation taking charge of the debate. Last week the Bank for International Settlements called for combined fiscal and monetary tightening, lending its great authority to the forces of debt-deflation and mass unemployment. If even the BIS has lost the plot, God help us.