The perfect storm is brewing and few people can read the signs. Many in Washington wrongly believe the root of the economic problems are in the housing market. I believe that the root of the entire economic meltdown is rooted in greed and no amount of government programs, tax cuts, or funny money from Washington with fix that root cause. A lot of people and businesses are going to have to feel some real pain before this problem goes away.
As the news slowly trickles out of Washington on how the stimulus/bailout/rescue will actually be spent, we are learning more every day that very few politicians expect this bill to create or save a mass of jobs within the next two years. As a government civil service member I can assure you that major infrastructure projects will not translate into jobs very fast. The programs have to be staffed and then the contracts have to written and then the contractors have to develop plans, etc, etc. Most of the benefit of this stimulus will likely begin to be realized in U.S. economy in about three years as admitted by most of Washington. Yes that is very convenient timing for a presidential reelection bid but I think the economic problems could correct themselves in about that amount of time even if congress does absolutely nothing. But by doing nothing they will not be able to claim credit for casting a vote for “something” which they think “is better than nothing”.
The disturbing reality of the state of the U.S. economy came to me in a headline titled Visa Reports Profit Rose 35% with Increased Use of Cards. The NY Times did not explain this news in the same way I perceived that headline at first glance. The first thing I thought was that record job losses plus lower retail spending equals a high likelihood that folks are using their Visa credit cards and “convenience” checks to pay their mortgages, utilities, and car payments. So the “Increased Use” of Visa is probably not good news for our economy if you get down in the weeds of how that credit might be being used. Since the magic carpet (stimulus) from Washington is not expected to land in a neighborhood near you any time soon to create or save jobs this makes for the perfect storm. The more jobs that are lost the more likely we are to see non-traditional expenses put on credit credit cards. Then when the credit limit is reached before the new jobs reach the unemployed credit card owners, well you get the picture I am sure. The exact timing of when this storm will hit hardest is dependent on the amount of credit the average jobless head of household has available after the loss of their job. Once the income stops and the bottom is reached (top of credit card limit) then there will be no ability to get refinanced and you might start seeing homeless rates rise like only a small sample of the U.S. population is old enough to remember from the 1930′s. The notion that fixing the housing market will solve all the problems is a fantasy. A borrower without a job is not going to be able to pay mortgage payments even at 0% interest. No amount of mortgage system overhaul, tax cuts, or infrastructure projects are going to solve the rapidly rising unemployment numbers.
The stimulus programs implemented by President Bush did not prevent this economic meltdown and the stimulus being sold by President Obama and his friends in congress will not fix the economy. What exactly this country will look like once the perfect storm comes ashore is impossible to forecast but you should prepare to witness some extreme damage.
Higher unemployment + increased use of credit = more foreclosures to come