Wolf Richter: The Economy Is Cracking Under Too Much Debt

Housing, restaurants & retail are suffering

by Adam Taggart
Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity

Wolf Richter joins the podcast this week to discuss the deterioration of the global macro situation, and how he is seeing growing signs of recession breaking out across the economy:

I think that was one of the biggest mistakes the central banks made during the financial crisis: They stopped the debt from blowing up. So we never had a cleansing.

In a recession, normally companies de-leverage. They go through bankruptcy, they shed their debts, and you have this big wave of debt restructuring. This is painful for bondholders and banks, but it clears out the crap that is clogging up the pipeline. And so these companies reemerge or get bought out and the debt just disappears. The same with consumers: they unload their debts through various methods, and so when the recovery starts, you are not suffocating under this huge load of debt.

That has not happened in the United States, particularly, but in other countries, too. That debt never got fully blown out. And then the recovery started with 0% interest rates and monetary stimulus, which only encouraged companies and individuals and governments to take on even more debt. So now we’re burdened with such an enormous amount of debt that I think it is very hard to even breathe for the economy. A lot of people out there are worried about this, which is why you hear now voices saying we need a serious reflation. They need to come up with a lot of inflation to wipe out that debt. And of course, that will be a fiasco for our economy because if you have any uptick inflation without an equivalent uptick in wages — which we have not been getting — then you will destroy the consumer. And so this is not a great solution either.

But we are still solving the too-much-debt-problem with too much debt. I mean, the Fed is still saying We will make money for free and you just need to borrow more money, and that’s its solution to having too much debt. It’s insane when you look at it. 

Restaurants, a classic leading indicator of economic spending, are having one of their worst periods since the 2008 crisis:

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