The Greater Depression

BERKELEY – First it was the 2007 financial crisis. Then it became the 2008 financial crisis. Next it was the downturn of 2008-2009. Finally, in mid-2009, it was dubbed the “Great Recession.” And, with the business cycle’s shift onto an upward trajectory in late 2009, the world breathed a collective a sigh of relief. We would not, it was believed, have to move on to the next label, which would inevitably contain the dreaded D-word.

But the sense of relief was premature. Contrary to the claims of politicians and their senior aides that the “summer of recovery” had arrived, the United States did not experience a V-shaped pattern of economic revival, as it did after the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1980s. And the US economy remained far below its previous growth trend.

Indeed, from 2005 to 2007, America’s real (inflation-adjusted) GDP grew at just over 3% annually. During the 2009 trough, the figure was 11% lower – and it has since dropped by an additional 5%.

The situation is even worse in Europe. Instead of a weak recovery, the eurozone experienced a second-wave contraction beginning in 2010. At the trough, the eurozone’s real GDP amounted to 8% less than the 1995-2007 trend; today, it is 15% lower.