Rogoff: Calling Downturn a Great Recession is Too Mild

Saturday, 06 Aug 2011 11:30 AM

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Wall Street and Main Street relish in saying goodbye to the so-called Great Recession and look forward to sunnier skies.

Not so fast, says Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff.

A more accurate description should be the Second Great Contraction because recessions imply quick bounces back from the abyss, which isn't happening right now.

The First Great Contraction is known worldwide as the Great Depression, Rogoff says.

We're living in something similar to that now thanks to overwhelming global debt burdens.

"The real problem is that the global economy is badly overleveraged, and there is no quick escape without a scheme to transfer wealth from creditors to debtors, either through defaults, financial repression, or inflation," Rogoff writes in an article published in Project Syndicate.

"In a conventional recession, the resumption of growth implies a reasonably brisk return to normalcy. The economy not only regains its lost ground, but, within a year, it typically catches up to its rising long-run trend."

Some experts say the economy is already showing signs of falling back into recession, known popularly as double dipping.

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the measure of economic output, grew 1.3 percent in the second quarter, below most expectations, while the first-quarter figure was revised down to 0.4 percent from 1.9 percent.

"The thing about GDP growth is that it tends to be persistent," says Justin Wolfers, associate professor of business and public policy at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"Good news tends to be followed by good news, bad news by bad news. That then suggests that we're looking at a very weak second half of the year as well."

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