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Are we into hard times?

By James Cumes - posted Monday, 15 March 2010

Are we into hard times? The question is asked more and more frequently and more and more insistently.

The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is that we are doing our best to ensure that the times will get harder still and that they will last longer than we should ever have allowed them to endure.

There is some question about the starting date of the collapse of what future historians may identify as the most brazenly corrupt domestic and global financial system we have ever known.


Racket would be a fairer word than “system” and some observers see its collapse as having started with Bear Stearns. That was about three years ago. Alternatively, it may be seen to have begun only with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, nearly two years ago.

Either is a considerable length of time. It is inordinately long and dangerous when the issues - domestic and global - are potentially of such a catastrophic nature as we now know them to be.

Moreover, we have had, within the last 100 years the clearest evidence of what economic and financial collapse can mean.

Apart from the impact on virtually every kind of business enterprise, the impact in political and strategic terms can be horrendous.

We pretend sometimes that we pay attention to what happened between 1929 and 1945. At least one of those currently in charge of one of the most authoritative and respected of our public financial institutions has been proclaimed an "expert" on that period of the Great Depression.

That makes it all the more surprising that we have done so little to pull ourselves back from the abyss since Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers.


Admittedly, there have been great flurries of activity at times. Panic has often been in the air in the highest policymaking circles. There has also been a massive outpouring of money, bigger than has anything ever contrived before.

For some time past, some of the most powerful in our economies and political and strategic communities have been telling us that we are on "The Road to Recovery". The major domestic and global media repeat the theme endlessly. Almost every piece of data is interpreted to confirm "recovery" or, if the data is not as encouraging as they wish, to be only a "blip" or "glitch".

This is despite almost all of the data being fraudulent in some degree. That includes what used to be the most revered statistics. The United States does not have 9.7 per cent unemployment. Everyone and, most importantly, the unemployed know that joblessness is 20 per cent and more. They know it is growing not receding.

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About the Author

James Cumes is a former Australian ambassador and author of America's Suicidal Statecraft: The Self-Destruction of a Superpower (2006).

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