Global markets in Europe and Asia fell for a third day Wednesday as investors turned their attention again to whether or not the Federal Reserve will start winding down its bond-buying this month. Better-than-expected U.S. ADP private payroll numbers (215,000 versus 173,000 expected) added an incremental datapoint to the narrative that the domestic economy is improving, which perhaps furthers the case that the Fed should taper.
But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, economists like Larry Summers and Paul Krugman have argued the U.S. economy is really, in fact, in a permanent slump, with high unemployment and slow growth the norm.
So are we heading up, or heading nowhere fast? Is the U.S. economy really in a permanent slump?
"There are signs that indicate we are," CNBC.com senior editor John Carney, who has written about this debate, tells us in the accompanying video. "Wage growth for most Americans has been very low for a very long time, and it seems that we only get to full employment, which should be the normal status... in a bubble."
The question, Carney says, becomes can we have a normal economy, or do we need bubbles?
Regardless of how people answer that question, in response to the current slump (permanent or otherwise), the Fed has been keeping interest rates near zero and buying $85 billion in bonds per month to boost economic growth. We're still not anywhere near full employment, with the national jobless rate at 7.3% and millions of people who want work but cannot find jobs.
Because the economy may be in a permanent slump, Carney argues, we may have extremely low interest rates for our entire lifetimes. Yes, that long. He explains why in the video above.
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