The De-Leveraging of America
WaPo business reporter Steven Pearlstein writing about the actions of the Federal Reserve and the economy:
In the face of what is turning into the most serious financial market crisis since the Great Depression, the Fed has been more aggressive and more creative in using its limitless balance sheet — in effect, its ability to print money — than at any time in history.
…In broad strokes, we’re going through a massive “de-leveraging” of the economy, wringing out trillions of dollars of debt that had artificially driven up the price of real estate and financial assets, and, more generally, allowed Americans to live beyond their means. The Fed’s goal has not been to impede that process, simply to make sure that it proceeds in an orderly fashion. But even that has required central bank intervention that is unprecedented in scale and scope. And despite yesterday’s huge rally in the stock market, Fed officials warn that this de-leveraging is nowhere near finished.
…It’s anyone’s guess how long this credit crunch will last, but the chances are that we’ll have several more market meltdowns and Fed rescues before it’s over, probably in the fall. Until then, the dollar will continue to get hammered and stocks will continue their fitful decline. And if the last two financially induced recessions are any guide, it will be well into 2009 before the economy hits bottom…
This does not sound like the type of economy elected officials like to see in an election year. Who will get the blame? It’s hard to imagine voters blaming Democrats—in charge of Congress for only two years and the party that polls show large majorities favor on domestic issues.