Will there be a recession in the coming months? Don’t bet against it! August 18, 2019 Richard J. Garfunkel

Recessions in the past have com about for different and varied reasons, often dependent on the micro and the macroeconomic picture abroad and here in the States, along with the consequences of political disruptions that could have global impacts: wars, oil embargoes, and prolonged terrorism. It could be a result of over-heated markets, a glut in housing, and over-expansion in demand, resulting in an inflationary bubble and a pullback resulting in an economic contraction.

Today, the United States is literally entering uncharted financial territory. Rather than help the middle and lower classes put more money in their bank accounts, fueling the economy with more spending across the board, the tax cuts have added leverage mostly to stock prices. Meanwhile, they added to annual federal budget deficits of about $1.0 trillion and raised the National Debt over $23 trillion.  Administration promises of 4-6% growth and an infusion of revenues from business expansion and repatriation of overseas dollars is and was a “pipe dream!” This added debt has put pressure on government spending.

One critical element is business investment, which could be curtailed by problems associated with international trade. Currently the economics of China and the Pacific Rim countries are slowing because of the Trump trade war, which seems to have little continuity, direction. or even logic. The giant Asian economy appears to have slowed in no small part due to stiff tariffs imposed by the U.S. in an ongoing dispute over trade rules.

Yet, the Trump White House still needs to be careful to avoid shooting itself in the foot, economists say. Although the U.S. is less reliant on trade than most other nations, imports and exports represented 34% of the economy in 2018 — up from 22% two decades earlier.

We have had tariffs on Chinese imports for over a year now, but earlier this month, Trump raised the tariff rate on a broad list of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent. He’s also threatening to nearly double the list of goods subject to the elevated tariff. That means the punitive China tariffs may soon be five times as large as they were during their first year. Already with warnings from Wall Street, Trump rolled back his threat to raise tariffs in September, and theoretically pushed it back into December. A two thousand point drop in the DJIA has a way of even catching his limited attention.

The critical element is business investment which could be curtailed by problems with a disruption in international trade. Currently with the economic slowdown in Asia, the long-term economic malaise in Europe, and the growing problem that Britain faces with no exit deal from the European Union, there could be storm clouds and choppy waters ahead.

One key indicator that has slumped last quarter is fixed, non-residential investment. As for the nation’s factories they have slowed for five consecutive months, and the July reading was the lowest since July, 2016.

As recorded by the US Labor Department, job growth the first six months of 2018, was 196,000 per month. This year, the first six months it was 172,000 per month, down 13% from 2018. In the last six months of 2016, (the Obama Administration) job growth, 209,000 per month.

There are two versions of the unemployment rate — one that’s seasonally adjusted (that’s the one that gets all the headlines) and one that’s not. The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the former in its communications with the press because seasonal adjustment is what allows us to compare the rate from month to month. Adjusting smooths out the predictable peaks and valleys that happen each year (such as the boom in retail employment ahead of the holidays). But if you’re not looking at change over time, the non-adjusted number can be considered a more true-to-life snapshot of unemployment in the previous month. For July it was really 4.0%

The promised Trump growth rate, of anywhere from 4 to 6%, grew at only 2.3% the last four quarters. Since 1947 through 2019 the growth rate grew at 3.21%. Of course, that factored in the great post war growth rates, along with the -10 in GDP in the last Eisenhower Recession of 1958.

Our annual deficit, with the Trump tax cut went from $585 billion in 2016 to an estimated $984 in 2019. How did those deficits effect the National Debt? It soared $2.4 trillion! Along with the growing deficits, where was the repatriation of trillions of US Dollars parked overseas? What happened to those “tax-sheltered” monies? Meanwhile, the Treasury Department said in March that the U.S. government’s deficit for the first four months of this budget year rose to $310.3 billion — a full $134.6 billion dollars more than the deficit during the same period last year. This is in spite of the government reporting a budget surplus amounting to $8.7 billion in January.

Similarly, another potential problem is the inability of corporations to make significant investments when the Federal government has an incoherent, confused, and inconstant problem regarding trade, basic economics, and budgetary excesses. In simpler terms, corporations have no clue what direction this administration is going. One day there was the threat of a 25% tariff on China, which was to go into effect in September and then in the wake of an 8% correction in one week of the market, and a 3% fall of 800 points in one day, it was pushed back to December.

Other significant problems are huge corporate debt, taken in an era of low interest rates. Today, interest rates are a shade over 2% and thus there is little room for the Federal Reserve to lower rates in case of an economic slide. In 2007, the rate was over 5%, enabling the lowering of rates to re-stimulate the economy! Right now, an elongated trade war could lead to an increase in bankruptcies that could increase unemployment and elevate a mild slowdown onto a larger contraction.

Right now, there is pressure on the retail sector. With the over-expansion of outlets, reflective of low borrowing rates, despite the middle class continuing to shrink, there is way too much dependence on low end service jobs. The tax cut increased the overall cost to all Americans  of over  $90 billion. With the beneficiary of the tax cut going to the upper income classes, the normal American actually paid much more than that increase.

As for the corporate tax cut, their share of the revenues into the US Treasury was previously at the lowest percentage in the past 100 years. After the full impact of the Trump tax rate cut from 35% to 21%, their contribution dropped 40%.

The last factor which could turn a mild, cyclical, slowdown into a recession is the gridlock in Washington. In 2008, Democrats approved a huge Bush Administration recovery package. This in reality, contributed to a large part of the debt accumulated in the early Obama Administration. Does anyone really believe that the democrats will bail out the trump Administration in an election year?  If you do, you may also believe in the tooth fairy!


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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at http://advocates-wvox.com. Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel rjg727@comcast.net Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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