What Will Cause The Next Recession – Richard Fisher Thinks It’s US Education
As Buffett says when the tide goes out you find out who’s swimming naked. There are a lot of ugly naked bodies in the credit system in my view in Europe. We’re having the longest economic expansion since the Civil War. The predecessor long expansion was exactly 120 months. It was March of 1991 to March 2001. We’re gonna pass through that. We had monetary policy all by itself but now you have a big boost from fiscal policy. And also a new regulatory regime that came in with, which is more pro-business, that came in with President Trump and also with the Republican Senate. So I would expect this to be prolonged perhaps all the way through next year we’ll see. But there are some risks with this because you have of course a hyper leveraged government right now or more leveraged. It was hyper leverage before. They’re going to issue another trillion, 350, $300 billion in bonds next year. At a time when the Fed, one of the buyers, is withdrawing from doing that. They’re shrinking their balance sheet. And so I can see some real pressures coming from higher interest rates. So that’s one thing I think we’ll be a bit of a retardant. We’ll have to see how strong the underlying economy is. We do have of course trade frictions and we have other issues of pinpricks in the system. Leveraged loans and corporate debt and a little bit of weakness in the auto sector, the housing sector. But in the end you run out of speed on a business cycle you begin to slow down. The issue is what happens when things slow down. And when that occurs and I know not one and no one can forecast with specificity, The Fed will need to be able to cut rates, and if needed, then expand their balance sheet, if that isn’t enough. So I think what the Fed wants here is to put some nuts in the tree. And what I mean by that is have some rate increases without disturbing the economy. But keep going as far as they can before it creates too much friction. At the risk of tipping the economy over, which they have a record of doing 10 of 13 tightening cycles before this one. I don’t see going into a negative pattern. It’s a question that we have had very robust growth. And how far you slow down. If we were slow down to 2% from the current run rate, which is much higher. I wouldn’t. To me, that’s a natural phenomenon. What you want to do is make sure that you don’t start cascading downward go into negative territory contract the economy, lay people off in jobs when economies contract and create the kind of frictions and problems that are a real recession creates. So we run that risk. I don’t think that’s the issue in the intermediate term. We do have business cycles. God hasn’t conquered the business cycle. President Trump hasn’t conquered the business cycle. And it’s hard for the Fed to conquer a business cycle but they can at least try to smooth it out as they go through time. There are some other things outside of the country that could come to infect us. I’m especially worried about Europe. I think the European Central Bank has conducted a policy that has hidden some really bad credits not just in Italy but elsewhere. If I come to you and say I’m going to lend you money and, by the way, I’m gonna pay you to take it. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re going to stretch out on your risk spectrum and you’re going to make some bad decisions. That’s human nature. It’s not quantifiable. It’s just human nature. And as Buffett says, “When the tide goes out you find out who’s swimming naked.” There are a lot of ugly naked bodies in the credit system in my view in Europe. In the ECB sphere. Now the Euro pool is the big pool along with the US dollar, second biggest pool of credits in the world. It’s a key currency, other than the dollar which is the key currency. The prime currency. So if you have disruption in that sphere, and given it’s a huge market for the United States. Altogether the largest market that we sell into in terms of our exports, that could I could see that coming back to infect us and creating systemic risk. So that’s my biggest fear right now. It is not China. China doesn’t have an open capital account like we do with in the case for Europeans. And it’s not the emerging markets because emerging markets are emerging markets. We know Argentina is going to do the same thing repeatedly and South Africa and Indonesia and Turkey etc.. I don’t see that infecting us. But I can see potential problems in Europe. And that’s a big pool. It’s an important place and it could be a systemic risk. So the biggest long term threat I see to the US economy is our horrifically bad. Primary and secondary education system. If we can’t graduate high school kids that can read and write. That can do four functional math. That understand the nature of the world we live in. Imagine, how we’re going to compete against this enormous surge of STEM students in China who work hard and our incentive to work hard or elsewhere in the world. You know, we always lag in mathematics, for example, against the Russians and so on. This is serious right now because we have a massive population base in China. There is an emphasis on education. And I remember going to with the delegation that was sent by Jimmy Carter to meet with Deng Xiaoping in 1978– 79. We concluded that treaty on March 3rd, 1979. There was no education system at all. It was all mouth-taught. And by the way, there were no cars– there were 2,000 thousand cars in all of China when we were there. They’re the biggest auto industry in the world right now. But importantly, they have re-emphasized education as a way to grow up your income escape, the middle income trap. We almost de-emphasize it. And we talked about it a lot but we don’t do anything about it. In the end, it really comes back to families and what kind of incentives say they give and what kind of cultural incentives we have. And we’re seeing other cultures. China is probably the most glaring example where there’s an emphasis here. It’s value. It’s part of your sense of self to be well educated and to study hard and to work hard. That’s a major shift and it’s the further along we get without having that become part of our cultural ethic, the harder it is to correct. But it is to me the number one problem long-term for our country.