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New American Contract Policy Paper

America’s Exhausted Paradigm

Macroeconomic Causes of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession
  • By Thomas Palley
July 22, 2009 |

This report traces the roots of the current financial crisis to a faulty U.S. macroeconomic paradigm. One flaw in this paradigm was the neo-liberal growth model adopted after 1980 that relied on debt and asset price inflation to drive demand. A second flaw was the model of U.S. engagement with the global economy that created a triple economic hemorrhage of spending on imports, manufacturing job losses, and off-shoring of investment. Deregulation and financial excess are important parts of the story, but they are not the ultimate cause of the crisis. Instead, they facilitated the housing bubble and are actually part of the neo-liberal model, their function being to fuel demand growth based on debt and asset price inflation. The old post-World War II growth model based on rising middle-class incomes has been dismantled, while the new neo-liberal growth model has imploded. The United States needs a new economic paradigm and a new growth model, but as yet this challenge has received little attention from policymakers or economists.

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Brewing instability over the past two decades has been visible in successive asset bubbles, rising indebtedness, rising trade deficits, and business cycles marked by initial weakness followed by febrile booms.