Richard Wolff on Democracy Now: We Need a More Humane Economic System

Wolff explains how the stock market is not an indicator of the overall economy. Most people are not financially secure

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’ve got, before this, the capital gains tax break, the break for the richest Americans, and President Trump says he’s improving the economy, and now the stock market has plummeted back to the Depression times. Explain.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, we’ve had an economy that never really escaped the crash of 2008. In a way, the last 10 years have been an economy on life support: vast amounts of money pumped into the economy; record drops in interest rates, inviting everybody—business, individuals, governments—to borrow money—a debt-sustained situation. And after a while, you can’t mount up the debt on the basis of an economy that hasn’t really gotten going. And we’re seeing the eventual break.

You know, the capitalist system has a downturn every four to seven years. It’s had that for centuries. And the last big downturn was 2008 and '09. So, if you do four and seven, and you add it to nine, we're due for one. And every major stock market observer, bank and so on predicts that we’re having a downturn. So it’s really only a question of exactly when. And the stock market anticipates this. And so we’re having, in a way, economic chickens coming home to roost. And the notion that it’s just the Fed’s policy that explains this is really the kind of remark that would get a student a very low grade in any economics course.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Richard, why—if over the last 10 years the Federal Reserve kept interest rates so low and provided so much cheap money, why hasn’t inflation increased dramatically in the U.S. over this period of time?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, the irony is, it’s one of the bizarre ways an economy works. There was no incentive to take all that money and go in and produce things that might have driven up prices and so on, because the people in America can’t afford to buy it. Our wages have been stagnant. The debts have been so big that people are afraid to borrow the way they once did, even though they still do, but not at the growing scale as before.

So, all that extra money kind of went into the stock market to make itself make quick money by buying shares, hoping that they would go up. And if all the rich people who get it into their hands do that kind of thing, you see the stock market go up, but the underlying economy doesn’t go anywhere. And again, after a while, that’s not a sustainable arrangement. ...

Transcript available at Democracy Now

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