Our Shape Is Desperate [Doo-Doo Economics]
Joseph Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001. I spoke with him Tuesday about the Wall Street meltdown.
Nathan Gardels: Barack Obama has said the Wall Street meltdown is the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. John McCain says the economy is threatened, but fundamentally strong. Which is it?
Joseph Stiglitz: Obama is much closer to the mark. Yes, America has talented people, great universities and a good hi-tech sector. But the financial markets have played a very important role, accounting for 30 percent of corporate profits in the last few years.
Those who run the financial markets have garnered those profits on the argument they were helping manage risk and efficiently allocating capital, which is why, they said, they “deserved” those high returns.
That’s been shown to be not true. They’ve managed it all badly. Now it has come back to bite them and now the rest of the economy will pay as the wheels of commerce slow because of the credit crunch. No modern economy can function well without a vibrant financial sector.
So, Obama’s diagnosis that our financial sector is in desperate shape is correct. And if it is in desperate shape, that means our economy is in desperate shape.
Even if we weren’t looking at the financial turmoil, but at the level of household, national and federal debt there is a major problem. We are drowning. If we look at inequality, which is the greatest since the Great Depression, there is a major problem. If we look at stagnating wages, there is a major problem.
Labels: Depressing Things