Monday, December 28, 2009



Op-Ed Columnist

The Big Zero


Maybe we knew, at some unconscious, instinctive level, that it would be an era best forgotten. Whatever the reason, we got through the first decade of the new millennium without ever agreeing on what to call it. The aughts? The naughties? Whatever. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?)

But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

It was a decade with basically zero job creation. O.K., the headline employment number for December 2009 will be slightly higher than that for December 1999, but only slightly. And private-sector employment has actually declined — the first decade on record in which that happened.

It was a decade with zero economic gains for the typical family. Actually, even at the height of the alleged “Bush boom,” in 2007, median household income adjusted for inflation was lower than it had been in 1999. And you know what happened next.

It was a decade of zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early: right now housing prices, adjusted for inflation, are roughly back to where they were at the beginning of the decade. And for those who bought in the decade’s middle years — when all the serious people ridiculed warnings that housing prices made no sense, that we were in the middle of a gigantic bubble — well, I feel your pain. Almost a quarter of all mortgages in America, and 45 percent of mortgages in Florida, are underwater, with owners owing more than their houses are worth.

Last and least for most Americans — but a big deal for retirement accounts, not to mention the talking heads on financial TV — it was a decade of zero gains for stocks, even without taking inflation into account. Remember the excitement when the Dow first topped 10,000, and best-selling books like “Dow 36,000” predicted that the good times would just keep rolling? Well, that was back in 1999. Last week the market closed at 10,520.

So there was a whole lot of nothing going on in measures of economic progress or success. Funny how that happened.

For as the decade began, there was an overwhelming sense of economic triumphalism in America’s business and political establishments, a belief that we — more than anyone else in the world — knew what we were doing.

Let me quote from a speech that Lawrence Summers, then deputy Treasury secretary (and now the Obama administration’s top economist), gave in 1999. “If you ask why the American financial system succeeds,” he said, “at least my reading of the history would be that there is no innovation more important than that of generally accepted accounting principles: it means that every investor gets to see information presented on a comparable basis; that there is discipline on company managements in the way they report and monitor their activities.” And he went on to declare that there is “an ongoing process that really is what makes our capital market work and work as stably as it does.”

So here’s what Mr. Summers — and, to be fair, just about everyone in a policy-making position at the time — believed in 1999: America has honest corporate accounting; this lets investors make good decisions, and also forces management to behave responsibly; and the result is a stable, well-functioning financial system.

What percentage of all this turned out to be true? Zero.

What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.

Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.

Then there are the politicians. Even now, it’s hard to get Democrats, President Obama included, to deliver a full-throated critique of the practices that got us into the mess we’re in. And as for the Republicans: now that their policies of tax cuts and deregulation have led us into an economic quagmire, their prescription for recovery is — tax cuts and deregulation.

So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing. Will the next decade be better? Stay tuned. Oh, and happy New Year.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. DeLorean:

    1) This article has nothing to do with Bill White.

    2) You have no idea of where Bill will be waking up - he has not been sentenced yet.

    3) Your fixation on ass-raping tells everyone quite a lot about you.

  3. Hey NIkki, one of those niggers you love so very much just tried to blow up a NW airlines plane bound for detroit. Isn't diversity

  4. Nikki, it's a shame I can't talk to you directly, because I would like for nothing more than to do so. It's an issue of trust, and hopefully you are smart enough to figure that out.

    Yes, I am out of the movement (even though there are forces at play that would like to see it otherwise, and you would be surprised to know that the majority of those forces are on YOUR side of the fence).

    Hopefully you won't try to out me further at your discussion area.

    Yes, I am totally out of this bullshit some call a WN movement...I probably won't totally get my life back (lots of petty people on all sides that like to play gotcha games).

    Someone recently
    declared to me they thought my faith in Christianity was waning...but he was mistaken--it's my faith and trust in other human beings that no longer exist.

    The only thing I have is my faith in God, and God willing I will draw closer to him.

    The things that are happening in this nation and what I feel is about to happen makes the bullshit we sparred about pale in comparison. My God, last night, I saw 11 people driving in our neighborhood trying to salvage ANYTHING of any value from the trash,(they were driving very nice vehicles).

  5. It figures now that idiot Von will be one of those morons who go around carrying signs that say, "The End is Near" What you need to do Michael is to go out and get yourself a job. When you are less of a dead beat you will have less time to fret about things you can't change anyway. Oh and Mikey don't going trying to tell me you are a Christian, not until you can stop hating blacks and Jews.

  6. They hate Jews as a result of Christianity you fucking dipshit.

    I have been in arguments with them on many occasions about how ironic it is that they are so called Christians AND they hate Jews. And they quote scripture that tells them to do so.

    Another subject that dumbfuck runs his mouth on and has no idea what he is talking about.

    Also, notice how Belvins doesn't respond to you. Guess what twinkle toes. Although you are infatuated with him, he doesn't give a fuck about you.

  7. NEW BREAKING INFORMATION THAT I HAVE PIECED TOGETHER THAT REVEALS WHY YOU DEMOCRATS ARE SO FREAKING MISERABLE. Now maybe you will follow me to the libertarian anti government pro people party.

    It's all based on to what degree you are (Democrat) controlled by your state government.

    Here is my evidence that tries to con you into thinking that the reason is weather.

    However, they are hiding from you the real reason, or they are flat out ignorant. (I must admit that it is difficult living in a world of government educated sheep who are taught just enough to be dumb).

    It's funny how they completely disregard California' s beautiful weather.

    The reality is that each and every one of those "unhappy states" are UNION states therefore Democrat controlled states. NONE of them are right to work states. And you don't see the bad weather northern right to work states on that list. Montana is the 7th happiest.

    And that is the REAL reason why. The level of control you are under by your government. And Democrats take control to an extreme degree. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, but Paul gets only a few crumbs because the money that was stolen from Peter got fraudulently taken from agency to agency lining pockets all the way to the bottom.

    Look at the HAPPIEST top 10 states list. You will only see 2 union states on there. Hawaii and Maine. The rest are right to work. How could you not be happy in Hawaii even with the government choking you out. Maine I don't get. Anyone have any idea why those people in Maine are happy? It's clearly not because they are being controlled.

    And look at this map to verify

  8. Hooch rules. Keep up the good work!

  9. Don't be fooled. Hooch is just Von through a proxy. Uses same phrases as Von has, same grammar errors. Hooch/Von same cocksucker. End of dicussion.

  10. To Michael - I understand that issue of trust - and you know that it works both ways. However, I would like nothing more than to speak to you personally. There are some things between us that really do need to be cleared up. Maybe someday we can find a way.

    It would be a very big surprise to know that there was anyone on my side of the fence who didn't want to see you out of the movement, happy, and moving on with your life and your family. I don't know who those people might be - but I would also love to talk to them personally. Believe me, I would have a few choice words.

    I would love to see you get your life back. I have wanted to see that for a very long time. Yes, there are lots of "gotcha" people out there - but they really don't matter much in the grand scheme of things. What matters the most is that you know who you are and what you want out of this life. You are very talented in many ways and have a lot to offer. Let that shine through.

    It's hard these days to maintain faith in others. But, you know that God is constant. That will get you through a lot of things. While I may not share your strong religious viewpoints on everything, I DO know God and I DO know that your faith in him will carry you through everything.

    Your last paragraph was absolutely true. There is so much hardship, so much despair, and so many things happening in this country that many of the internet squabbles of the past pale in comparison. I have said it over and over - at some point, none of this is going to matter. We WILL have to set it all aside and come together to solve much bigger issues - like survival.

    You know, life is full of twists and turns. We are always in a state of flux, it seems. As we go through different periods in our lives often we find that the things that were of the utmost importance to us 10 - 15 years ago, just don't seem as important now. We humans are always changing - it's called growth. I know that my political views have gone through some dramatic changes over the years and I find that through discussions on the internet, I constantly questioning many of my views. I think that's a good thing. It's better than becoming stagnant.

    I am happy for you. I hope that you rebuild a life filled with joy and faith. I hope that you and your family find peace and love and contentment. Most of us all want the same thing in the long haul.

  11. Looks like Hal is not only violating the judge's order about blogging, he is also violating the judges order by commenting on his own case.

    If you really have contact with the judge Nikki, now is the time to let him know what Hal just posted.

  12. The narc has every right to speak about whatever the fuck he wants. Judges have taken their jobs as mini dictators rather than enforcing the law by the rules and regulations that govern them!!!

  13. And are you talking about Hal being an actual FBI agent?

    I would have liked to see the rest of that transcript where the guy says, excuse me, I meant FBI Informant

  14. What the hell does that redacted transcript prove? Looks like Hal and family are pretty desperate for someone to love them.


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