5 reasons why the US will never again see economic growth

Photo:  dno1967b/Flickr.

Photo: dno1967b/Flickr.

Former Treasury Secretary and current Obama Economic Adviser Larry Summers is right to blast the austerity programs that have provoked massive protests in Europe while failing to halt the decline of EU economies or stabilize the shaky Euro.

Yet Summers is wrong when he wrote recently in the Washington Post that in the U.S. any non-austerity or stimulus programs will be able to come up with “measures [that] can best support sustained economic growth.”

Larry, who are you kidding?

Do you think you’re fooling The People — again? Or are you just fooling yourself and your cadre of beltway insiders? Here’s a news bulletin: all of you are fed fat on wishful thinking and stuck in an economics-as-usual hall of mirrors.

It’s wake up time.

Larry’s limp pom-poms

Larry, and my fellow Americans…for several key reasons there will never be a fundamental, enduring economic recovery based on “sustainable” growth or endless growth or anything like it.

I know it. You know it. We all know it.

Where Larry and I differ is that he thinks that with enough jargony pep talks about can-do-ism and whiz-bang policy tinkering that he and the other growth cheerleaders can push the one thing that so much of this hinges on — confidence — back into happy camper land and thus dupe more of us into believing that the next big payday is just around the corner.

But it’ll never work because the kind of recovery Summers promises stands against entropy above all; but it also flies in the face of actions that have so damaged confidence that we’re already a post-true believer society. The American Dream has been exposed, and, in a world of limits, it’s been found wanting.

Not even big nanny government can save our bacon now.

Of snake oil, hucksters, and dry wells

The biggest problems with an Uncle Sam-to-the-rescue approach are:

  1. Accounting fraud has become de facto if not official US policy (from quantitative easing to the destructive myth of —and federal collusion in— Too Big To Fail banking to a perpetual spigot of notional cash issued by the Fed). Our money is tied to nothing.
  2. Failure of the rule of law. There can be no confidence in the system when accounting and banking fraudsters unleash fury onto investors and then are not only not punished, but are actually rewarded. Thieves steal when thieving pays.
  3. Energy bubbles passing as energy policy serve the same essential culture of fraud. Fracked natural gas, oil shale, and tar sands are unaffordable energy sources on multiple fronts, making those who hawk them both inside and outside of government no more than Ponzi schemers. Old folks and suckers will pay the price here. Divest is the watchword.
  4. Unfazed by the hocus pocus revealed in #3, in the real world of real resources we’re now at peak fossil fuels. With energy THE key driver of our economy, debt becomes unserviceable anyway, and jobs decline regardless. The future won’t look like George Jetson. The future will look like Pa Ingalls.
  5. Technology can’t “save” us from this because tech runs on fossil fuels. No replacement energy paradigm can be rolled out to match our current scale of debauched consumption and its partner in crime, our blithely wasteful lifestyle. Based on current atmospheric carbon levels and unchecked carbon behavior this puts us on a suicide mission which, even if it doesn’t lead to total die-off, will lead to a host of deadly consequences. And that’s no recipe for “growth” whether in dollars or in sense.

The proper use of an engine brake

The bottom line is that at this juncture truth telling is far more important than wishful thinking, cons, and technocratic tinkering. Done right, downshifting is actually kinda cool.

The people are leading. So when are the leaders going to follow?

— Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

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    • says

      I hope you don’t feel that either A) You can’t make a difference (that would be a pretty hopeless state of existence) or B) That it is only elected officials, Richie Rich, and those in so-called “powerful positions” who can make a difference and it’s our duty to wait on them to lead us to the promised land.

      I find it is quite the opposite. The more folks who realize this — that true power is within each of us — the faster we’ll at the very least adapt with some dignity. At the most, our collective actions can shift the paradigm, but only if that’s where we seat our confidence.

  1. says

    This article could have been written by Charles Hugh Smith [of two minds blog]. He has been writing about debt slavery for years. I think you are correct about the limits of growth. About criminality I am reading “The Price of Justice” which is the story about the effort to bring Don Blankenship to justice. I support the Obama administration in the sense that Obama was a much better choice in ’08 and again in ’12. But again the Obama administration seems too cozy with the powers that be. Each party seems too interested in being reelected which means taking care of the needs of the 1% folks. I agree that local action is key. I hardly ever shop at Wal-Mart.

  2. John Dyer says

    I have to believe that no one at the Fed believes that the QE can jump start the economy. Not even Bernanke. I do believe however that they understand that if they stop it, the result will be a collapse. They are in a no win situation and have decided the best option is to continue the charade and business as usual as long as possible.

  3. James R. Martin says

    Rapid, profound change is necessary. The specific nature of that change is fairly obvious to those who have been paying close attention. We must very swiftly replace the predominant way of life in so-called “advanced” societies (e.g., the USA) from extreme fossil fuel intensiveness to a much, much lower level of dependency and use.

    To accomplish this aim will require many things, but most of all it will require a swift and radical transformation of human organization and collective/collaborative decision making. We have not been able to depend upon the conventional and established political machinery to move in this direction, and this will not be changing any time soon (read: never). That machine is geared in such a way that it simply CANNOT serve our genuine need. What is needed, now, is a radical and profound turning on the part of “the people,” an abandonment of faux democracy and an embrace of the real deal. For hints and clues, reasons and explanations, toward this end please read “The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement” by David Graeber.


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