A global recession: How did we get here?

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 1, 2012 in New York City. Following a poor jobs report, U.S. stocks sank more than 2 percent with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 277 points.

Kai Ryssdal: An interesting thing happened on the way to the opening bell on Wall Street this morning.

Nothing. Not panic selling. Not the Dow off 300 points. Not, nuthin'. Which, if you remember where we were on Friday -- that lousy jobs report and ever-intensifying European angst -- came as something of a surprise.

It's been, give or take, eight weeks since we thought we had a real recovery, with the American economy adding 275,000 jobs a month and Europe finally bailed out. Shows what we know, right?

We're gonna review today, walk things back, figure out as best we can how we got from there to here.

Montage: Europe because it's 20 percent of the world's demand and 20 percent of the world's GDP. Uncertainty was a cause of economic instability. That's been true in the past, it's true today. I think it's karma: we've tried to build a road on quicksand as far as the economy has gone and we'll continue to see the fallout.

None of that's all that re-assuring, so let's talk it through a bit. You could say this started with Greece, like Ethan Harris does. He's co-head of global economics at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Ethan Harris: Greece is kind of a trigger for a much bigger problem. It is a small world after all, and the mouth that roared is Greece.

There's always politics in these things, the domestic kind. Here's Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia.

Larry Sabato: Most people would point to Europe, but I don't think the D.C. bunch is doing anything to help. The uncertainty is stemming from tax and spending policy that they're refusing to grapple with now. The sooner they get started the better, in fact several months ago would not have been too soon.

There's consumer confidence, and Americans maybe not having faith anymore that things could get better.

Charles Gabriel's at Capital Alpha Partners in Washington, an independent research firm.

Charles Gabriel: Because we've put off until the fall any serious talk about extending the Bush tax cuts, you've got small businesses that are loathe to make any capital investments or decisions on hiring.

What about China and its economic miracle? Yeah, that's not helping.

Ken Rogoff: China has really been the bright spot in the global economy the last few years. China's been the engine that's been working. If China were to slow down dramatically, it'd have a huge impact on trade and growth. This really would be the other shoe dropping.

Harvard economist Ken Rogoff there.

And yes, you can even blame the weather, should you do choose.

Heidi Moore: I mean one possible reason is that Wall Street is very attached to its vacations, so right around this time of year, everyone starts to mentally check out. There's actually a saying on Wall Street: 'Sell in May and go away.'

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.

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