economy elizabeth warren Markets

Elizabeth Warren: An Economic Crash Is Coming

"The country’s economic foundation is fragile. A single shock could bring it all down".

By Elizabeth Warren, from Medium

I warned about an economic crash years before the 2008 crisis, but the people in power wouldn’t listen. Now I’m seeing serious warning signs in the economy again — and I’m calling on regulators and Congress to act before another crisis costs America’s families their homes, jobs, and savings.

I’ve spent most of my career getting to the bottom of what’s happening to working families in America. And when I saw the seeds of the 2008 crisis growing, I rang the alarm as loud as I could.

In 2003, I called out subprime lenders for tricking unsuspecting families — especially families of color — into refinancing into overpriced subprime mortgages. In 2004 and 2005, I warned that families were getting deeper into debt and hanging on only by borrowing against their homes, which put them in a vulnerable position if costs rose or a family member lost a job. In2006, I flagged that foreclosure rates were starting to go up, but that the mortgage lenders were still churning out loans because they had passed on the risk of defaults to investors in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Those trends — shady subprime lending, rising household debt, a mortgage market where lenders didn’t bear the risk of their loans — set the stage for the 2008 crisis.

But the people with the power to stop the crisis didn’t listen — not enough of them anyway. Not the banks, not Alan Greenspan or other federal regulators, not Congress. And when the crisis hit in 2008, working families lost it all while the big banks that broke the economy got a fat taxpayer bailout.

When I look at the economy today, I see a lot to worry about again. I see a manufacturing sector in recession. I see a precarious economy that is built on debt — both household debt and corporate debt — and that is vulnerable to shocks. And I see a number of serious shocks on the horizon that could cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble.

Our Precarious Economy

Household debt. A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, child care, and education have forced American families to take on more debt than ever before. The student debt load has “more than doubled since the financial crisis.” American credit card debt matches its 2008 peak. Auto loan debt is the highest it has ever been since we started tracking it nearly 20 years ago, and a record 7 million Americans are behind on their auto loans — many of which have similar abusive characteristics as pre-crash subprime mortgages. 71 million American adults — more than 30% of the adults in the country — already have debts in collection. Families may be able to afford these debt payments now, but an increase in interest rates or a slowdown in income could plunge families over a cliff.

Corporate debt. Corporations are also deeply in debt. Leveraged lending — lending to companies that are already seriously in debt — has jumped by40% since Trump took office, spreading “systemic risk” throughout our financial system. These high-risk loans now make up a quarter of all American business loans, and they look a lot like the pre-2008 subprime mortgages: poorly-underwritten loans with minimal protections that are then packaged and sold to investors. I’ve warned regulators about my concerns — which experts share — but their tepid response shows they haven’t learned the lessons of the last crisis.

Manufacturing recession. Despite Trump’s promises of a manufacturing “renaissance,” the country is now in a manufacturing recession. The Federal Reserve just reported that the manufacturing sector had a second straight quarter of decline, falling below Wall Street’s expectations. And for the first time ever, the average hourly wage for manufacturing workers has dropped below the national average.

The country’s economic foundation is fragile. A single shock could bring it all down. And the Trump Administration’s reckless behavior is increasing the odds of just such a shock.

The administration may breach the debt ceiling in September, leading to economic turmoil that top economists say would be “more catastrophic” than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Trump’s trade war with China threatens American manufacturing and has already hurt American companies that investors think of as “industry bellwethers,” while feedingan all-time economic slowdown in China that could have dramatic ripple effects on the American economy. And Trump is goading the U.K. toward a no-deal Brexit, which even his own administration acknowledges would have “immediate and significant spillover effects” to our economy.

The financial markets agree that there is a serious risk of downturn in the near future. The U.S. Treasury yield curve — a barometer for market confidence — normally slopes upwards because investors demand higher yields for bonds with longer maturities. But this March, it inverted for the first time since 2007, signaling that investors are so worried that things are going to get worse that they’d rather lock in lower rates for the future today than risk long-term rates going even lower. The curve has inverted before each and every recession in the past half century — with only one false signal.

And experts agree. In a recent survey of nearly 300 business economists, three-quarters expect a recession by the end of 2021 — with more than halfthinking it’ll come by the end of 2020.

Stopping the Next Downturn

The good news is that we have the chance to head off a crisis — just like we had a chance to head off the 2008 crisis — if we take bold action now to address the underlying problems in the economy:

Warning lights are flashing. Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high — and growing. Congress and regulators should act immediately to tamp down these threats before it’s too late.


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17 comments on “Elizabeth Warren: An Economic Crash Is Coming

  1. she has been sounding the alarm since 2002. i think her reading of the current situation isn’t correct,. i do think she has some good ideas, and some bad ones too.. she certainly is a serious and hard working candidate and a contender for the nomination. disclosure; i am a biden supporter..

    • Anonymous

      broken clock …

      • I’ve become preponderantly disposed to agree with you as the preliminaries go on.

        The more Scummo the Orangehole degenerates into unapologetic sociopathic, deplorable spectacle- without one synapses of regulating morality, patriotism, nor even basic non-reptilian comprehension of anything approaching the ,most basic of moral concepts – the more I find myself gravitating towards Harris, as well. She will all but physically bitch-slap Scummo when he perpetrates some abhorrent miscreant stratagem against her; this woman has bigger virtual balls than his tiny predatory paws could ever get ahold of , to grab.

        I mean, could you see this perfidious creepy oaf camera-stalking her tv frame during a debate, like when he greased into his Pennywhistle menace behind Hillary? She’d turn around and articulate some spectacular, eidetic, and iconic visual/verbal beat down to the effect of, “look asshole, if you don’t trot your lazy solipsistic lard ass back to your podium – I will melt you in any number of ways.” She would be all over him – fuck hallowed (and effete, ineffective) Democratic “high-road dignity & decorum! She’d turn and invade HIS space, putting an inch between her and his soccer mom body. Kamala has got the “give no fucks for the aggressor” fight that we have sorely missed.

        Biden would do okay here too – he’d probably give Scummo a count of ten before getting right up in his buffoonish orange maw and chest-bumping the 5-time draft dodging poltroon back to his side of the stage. Problem is, he’s ultimately another milquetoast centrist utilitarian who has the same stink of platitudinous geriatric homily as Hillary did.

        Besides, Kamala checks a lot of demographic boxes and her prosecutorial piss and vinegar should arouse the righteousness and political tribalism necessary from an often perfunctory Democratic electorate.

    • Lance Manly

      Say what you want about her, but at least she is not stupid.

  2. There is much truth to her post. Don’t agree with all her cures, but it is a worthy list of items to discuss. Corporate borrowing and leverage is likely to be the cause of the next downturn.

    • jamaican

      true.
      As a plus, it’s nice to read from someone who has actual policy suggestions that go beyond 3-word chants.
      Even if they may not all be possible to implement, it’s a pleasure to read these articulate, thoughtful missive.

  3. Anonymous

    interesting angle….decent timing too, calling out an economic decline AND blaming it on current policies. if/when it occurs she’ll be able to say ‘told ya’. unfortunately her solutions are barely better than the what the rest of the left are calling for. higher minimum will result in less jobs; telling companies they -cant- borrow as they like is a pipe dream; the tech for manufacturing is increasing so fast there is no way to increase the number of people doing it, esp at above avg wages. 50k in debt foregiveness will allow them to re-borrow all that money in either credit card/car/housing loans. which could have a positive effect, but its not economically positive, shifting one pool of debt to another pool/payer.

  4. So we’re going to reduce household debt on student loans by letting the tax payers finance it? No. At some point, students have got to realize it doesn’t make sense going $50K-$100K in debt for a degree that doesn’t lead to a job, or a good paying one. Now if you want to provide incentives for degrees in fields where we have a desperate need, that’s a different story. Or better yet, for training in trade skills. …there’s just way too much emphasis on the ‘college degree’ these days.

    • yeah, i mean, i’m 100% in favor of free college and i absolutely believe in the intrinsic value of liberal arts degrees, but, on the other hand, if the degrees aren’t leading to jobs, then that’s a problem. and remember, folks, there’s a misconception out there that it’s just “theatre degrees” or philosophy degrees, etc. that are dead ends. that’s a mischaracterization… MBAs and other ostensibly “good” degrees don’t work so well either. all of this kinda underscores the myth to Trump’s economic “miracle”. there’s a disconnect between what we’re training people for and what we need. to be perfectly honest, if i were advising new graduates again, i would tell them to either go get a master’s/PhD, or else bartend at a nice restaurant. seriously. if all you’ve got is a bachelor’s, you’re better off making $60k as a bartender working 6 hours a night, 5 days a week and having some leeway on how much is taxed than you are working yourself to death making $45k at a mundane 9 to 5.

      • i think the student debt problem is the story of how wall street was able to take advantage of university administrators (who should have caught on a lot sooner but instead got on board the gravy train) and children (high school students). it is truly shameful conduct from an industry that knows no shame.

      • Dana Newman

        And like the old saying goes – “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” You never know who you’re gonna get to know as a bartender.

        Corollary: Always be very nice to everyone you meet.

    • My recollection is that Warren’s student debt plan made the most sense among the various competing plans. Under her plan, relief would be means tested and limited.

      However, student debt relief is a one-time help to one generation of debtors, Future generations will fall right back into the student debt trap unless the cost of higher education is addressed. Clamping down on the for-profit education industry would be a good start.

  5. Anonymous

    I supervise three degree’d individuals. A Masters in Biology, a Bachelors in Biotechnology, and a Bachelors in Environmental Science. The Masters is almost 40 and has never lived outside of his parents house, at times he can spend up to an hour each day on the toilet with his phone, never brings his lunch. The biotech guy never brings his lunch, at least he rents a house and wears nice clothes. The Env Science never brings her lunch, has high potential that is limited by her millenialness and know it allness. I am trying to develop each of them with some success.

    I really do not care to pay for tuition for people who do not care enough to save money by making their own meals!

    signed Masters in Hard Knocks, and Associates in General Studies, otherwise known as: the boss, who fixes his own damn lunch.

  6. These conversations are often plagued by a moralistic who-is-going-to-pay-for-whom dynamic, even among the left, with things like avocado toast given explanatory power. Can anyone explain exactly how a consumer and import-driven economy is supposed to sustain itself, and market analysts’ aggregate revenue forecasts for coming decades be met, with an entire generation in the US either struggling with default, or focused on deleveraging from student loans at 7% and credit cards at 16%, in a global ZIRP environment no less? This conversation really is as much about growing the pie as it is about anything.

  7. Harvey Darrow Cotton

    Kamala should be your choice if you want a pure perfect return to the Obama years. Hope and change on the outside, continuity on the inside. She has the oratorical and prosecutorial skills to shred Trump in a debate, but she IS a cop who would rather go after parents of truant kids than, say, people who defraud you out of your house. She punches down, which is why she is a safe pair of hands to the Establishment, meant to put the dirty Progressives to sleep. She’ll dip her toe with calls for Medicare For All, but tell the media that she really doesn’t mean it. She can be for a Green New Deal because there are no specific policy proposals there. She is an empty basket of goods that you can put anything you believe into, committed to nothing. Will she abolish I.C.E.? No. Do you trust her to pursue further criminal justice reform? I don’t. She changes her position on marijuana legalization and the death penalty as the wind blows. She will put a pretty gloss on the expanded powers of the Presidency and return us to status quo ante MAGA.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Harvey. (Where is the “like” button, H?) I agree with every word.

      Amazingly, she is supported by some of the same people who are outraged by Trump’s lies every day.

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