Le triomphe sans joie de l’économiste lugubre

NEW YORK – Je prédis depuis belle lurette que ce n’était qu’une question de temps avant que la bulle de l’immobilier américaine – qui a commencé à se former au début de cette décennie, portée par un flux important de liquidités et une réglementation laxiste – n’éclate. Et plus la bulle prenait de temps pour se former, plus grande serait l’explosion et plus grande (et plus globale) serait la contraction qui s’ensuivrait.

Les économistes sont assez doués pour définir les forces sous-jacentes, un peu moins pour prédire la conjoncture. Les dynamiques à l’oeuvre sont toutefois conformes aux prévisions. Les États-Unis peuvent tabler sur la poursuite d’une contraction de l’économie pour 2009 – avec de graves conséquences pour l’ensemble du monde.

Les gouvernements fédéraux et des comtés, confrontés à la baisse de leurs revenus fiscaux, s’apprêtent par exemple à réduire leurs dépenses. Les exportations américaines sont sur le point de décliner. La consommation est en baisse, comme prévu. Il y a eu un énorme déclin de la richesse (perçue), de l’ordre de plusieurs milles milliards de dollars, lié à la chute des prix de l’immobilier et des actions. La majorité des Américains vivaient de toute façon au-dessus de leurs moyens, en utilisant leurs maisons, avec une valeur bien supérieure à celle du marché, comme garantie. Ce jeu-là est bien fini.

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