And the coaster plunges down, down, down….

Mike Whitney reports that:

A bleak jobs report sent stocks and commodities tumbling on Wednesday, while new signs of distress gripped the service industries index. An updated report from the ADP showed that private sector hiring slowed more than expected from March to April as companies struggled to meet rising raw material costs and flagging consumer demand. The service industry index (ISM) –which “ranges from utilities and retailing to health care, finance and transportation”–slumped to its lowest level since August signaling widespread deceleration and a progressive deterioration in the fundamentals. The turnaround has forced economists to rethink their projections for 2nd Quarter GDP and to watch more vigilantly for signs of contraction.

The problem, of course, is a demand-constrained economy. There is simply not enough money in the hands of consumers for them to purchase goods in such a quantity that the firms who supply those goods will increase their productive capacity to meet the demand. Whitney continues:

The dollar strengthened for the third straight session, in spite of the Fed‘s zero rates and $600 billion bond buying program. Trillions of dollars in monetary and fiscal stimulus have jolted stocks back to life, but debt-deflation dynamics in the broader economy are as strong as ever. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, consumer retrenchment has reduced discretionary spending, and housing continues its inexorable nosedive. The stock market continues to inch higher buoyed by central bank liquidity and margin debt, but investors are increasingly skittish and searching for direction.

High unemployment (well above 20% according to SGS), a comparatively anemic real wage, massive consumer debt and rising energy costs (an effect produced by peak-oil, the Fed’s loose money policies and commodity speculation) make consumers hesitant to spend on goods they might truly need (food, shelter, clothing, health and transportation) and certainly hesitant to spend on goods they may want. Generally speaking, America’s standard of living is declining, and economic techniques intended to promote asset inflation are useless tools to rely on when the real economy is in such a state.

Left critics of the Bush and Obama’s economic policies can always crow that they warned the Presidents of what would happen if they followed their inclinations and their advisors. But such words amount to a pyrrhic victory given the current trend that ends with another deep recession.

Quote of the day

This one issued from Mike Whitney‘s keyboard:

What does the assassination of Osama Bin Laden have in common with Guantanamo Bay?

They’re both intended to send a message that the United States has sunk deeper into savagery and abandoned any commitment to conventional norms of behavior. That’s the message, and we hear it “loud and clear”.

We don’t need our Harvard-educated president to crow about his latest gangland “hit” to know that America has turned into a moral swamp. That’s obvious in every area of policy, foreign and domestic. It’s just that certain incidents draw more attention than others, like when a drone incinerates a home full of women and children in the Pakistani outback or when F-16s reduce a city of 300,000 (Falluja) to rubble leaving behind a legacy of birth defects, cancer and grinding poverty. These are the real “headline grabbers”, like shrugging off the sovereign rights of an ally, invading their airspace, and deploying special ops to conduct a Rambo-style massacre in a civilian section of town.

Booyah. You go America! U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.