Boom. Boom. Boom. To hear the CNBC talking heads tell it, we’ve entered a period of permanent growth and prosperity. Unemployment drops as the DOW soars. Why, them does the average American sense something is amiss, subconsciously, even as they are supposedly exuberant about all things money?
Because it is amiss and badly. The people at CNBC are paid well to enthusiastically say “buy!” every day; it’s their business to whoop for business. The employment numbers are rigged – a mathematical alchemy that has constantly evolved as needed (to look good) since at least the 1970’s. The stock market numbers, record after record included, are similarly rigged. Vox has coined the term “Kraonomics” to describe it: a system built entirely on unsustainable debt.
It can’t be sustained and won’t be.
A strange thing seems to be happening to the U.S. economy. On surveys, businesspeople and consumers say the future looks bright. But recent economic activity hasn’t appeared very robust.
Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times noted this in a recent article about mergers and acquisitions. A number of surveys have been reporting that chief executive officers are highly optimistic. For example, the website Chief Executive and the Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey both report a surge in CEO confidence since the 2016 election, while Business Roundtable’s CEO Economic Outlook Survey finds an average level of confidence.
But as Sorkin reports, M&A activity is at its lowest level since 2013, and has fallen 40 percent in the past two years. Share buybacks have also slowed. Those “hard” numbers indicate that whatever CEOs are saying on paper, they aren’t taking actions that signal confidence in the future of their businesses. Capacity usage, which fell slightly in May, is another indicator of that true business sentiment is far from giddy.
Holden Caulfield had the word for this predicament, which he used constantly (usually for people): “phony.”
There’s a reason why real economists, independents, keep saying things are headed off a cliff. It’s what happens when you base a global economy on imaginary fake money in a computer. If the underlying green isn’t real, the performance and optimism can’t be either.