“While the decline in housing activity has been significant and will probably continue for a while longer, I think the concerns we used to hear about the possibility of a devastating collapse—one that might be big enough to cause a recession in the U.S. economy—have been largely allayed…” – Janet Yellen 1/22/07
The propaganda is always laid on the heaviest just ahead of The Fall. The employment report showing sub-4%, with nearly 96 million working age people not considered part of the labor Force, is possibly the penultimate fabrication.
Consumer spending is more than 70% of the GDP. A toxic consequence of the Fed’s money printing and near-zero interest rate policy over the last 10 years is the artificial inflation of economic activity fueled by indiscriminate credit creation.
But now the majority of American households, over 75% of which do not have enough cash in the bank to cover an emergency expense, have become over-bloated from gorging at the Fed’s debt trough.
As credit usage slows down or contracts, the economy will go off Bernank’s Cliff much sooner than Helicopter Ben’s 2020 forecast.
The chart above is the year-over-year percentage change in total consumer credit outstanding. Not only is the growth rate decelerating, credit card debt usage is beginning to contract. This the collective prose from the mainstream media is that households are paying down credit card debt with tax savings. But, again, this is a lie. For most households, the increase in the cost of gasoline more than offsets the $90/month the average taxpayer is saving in taxes.
The second chart shows that the growth rate in auto debt fell off Bernanke’s Cliff in early 2017. While the growth rate in the amount of auto debt has appeared to have stabilized – for now – there’s been a decline in the underlying growth rate in unit sales. This is because the mix of vehicles sold has shifted toward more trucks, which carry a higher sticker price and thus require a bigger auto loan. Larger loans per vehicle sold, less total units sold.
The Keynesian economic model – as it is applied in the current era to stimulate consumer spending – requires debt issuance to increase at an increasing rate. But as you can see, the rate of credit usage is decreasing. The affects are already reflected by a rapid slow-down in retail, auto and home sales. Most American households are saturated with debt.
The real fun begins as many of these households begin to default. In fact, the delinquency and default rate, in what is supposed to be a healthy economy, on subprime credit card loans and auto debt already exceeds the delinquency/default rate in 2008. Perhaps Bernanke’s Cliff is just around the next bend in the trail…