The Great Depression of 2019?

Happy new year.  Now let's turn our attention to the Great Depression of 2019.

Depending on the metric, things are the best they've been since 2000 or even 1968.  Employment, consumer confidence, you name it – they're all breaking records.  That's why I'm struck by a series of recent articles predicting a massive crash in 2019.

In a CNBC post entitled "US barreling toward recession at faster and faster rate" (October 4, 2018), former representative Ron Paul stated that rising interest rates associated with too much debt would bring about "big changes" in our markets.  He was right about the stock market, but so far there's little sign of the economic recession he predicted at the same time.  Economic recessions do not always follow from bear markets.  In fact, it is difficult to predict a recession, defined as two quarters of negative growth, until it is well underway.

Given the difficulty of predicting a recession, one would think professional economists would be more careful, but many have been far from circumspect.  For Professor Robert Schiller, the present market has echoes of the late 1920s, ending in the historic October crash followed by the Great Depression.  There is "something of that spirit today," Schiller states.  

There are data to support every possible scenario, and it's possible that the gloomsters are right.  What's certain is that there will be another recession at some point in the future.  Perhaps it will arrive in 2019.  The question is, why are liberal economists so eager to predict one?  Could it have anything to do with the 2020 presidential election?  Would a severe recession in 2019-2020 doom President Trump's chances of re-election?  And are the liberal media eager to see this recession come about even at the expense of the American worker?

Kevin Kelleher, writing for, summarizes the view of economists that growth will slow in 2019, then possibly fall into recession in 2020.  According to Harvard economist and Clinton treasury secretary Larry Summers, "there's a nearly 50% chance of a recession by 2020."  Any chance that Hillary will be running again in 2020 and seizing the moment?  Former Clinton aides are certainly loyal.

Heather Long in the Washington Post echoes Summers's opinion: recession in 2020.  The New York Times goes farther: "The Next Financial Calamity Is Coming."  U.S. debt levels are high, hackers are targeting companies and the society as a whole, and tariffs are slowing trade.

Many on the left are hoping that the predicted "calamity" shows up before the 2020 election, but from what I can see, that looks less and less likely.  The most recent GDP report came in with 3.4% growth in the third quarter.  Holiday sales were up 5.1% over last year – a strong number.  If anything, the economy is too strong: there are not enough qualified workers to fill jobs.  So why such agreement, especially among liberal academics, that 2019 and 2020 will be particularly bad?  And why the disconnect between academics and media, on the one hand, and nonpartisan economists on the other?

Outside academe, economists offer a healthy forecast for 2019.  The Federal Reserve predicts at least three more years of decent economic expansion: growth of 2.3% in 2019, 2% in 2020, and 1.8% in 2021.  The IMF predicts global growth at an even faster rate of 3.7% in 2019.  The 2020 election is still 22 months away, but those figures suggest that, in the view of the Federal Reserve and the IMF, a recession is not imminent.  The liberal media seem to be grasping at straws.

This does not mean that a recession will not occur.  One certainly will occur sometime in the future.  But if these figures can be trusted, it seems unlikely ahead of the 2020 election.  If anything, President Trump will be able to run on four straight years of solid growth.

That does not please the liberal media, so the media are mostly ignoring the careful forecasts of the Federal Reserve and IMF.  That in itself would constitute "fake news," but what I see happening is worse than fake news.  It is collusion between liberal economists and liberal media attempting to talk the economy down, potentially causing great harm to American workers and retirees, for the sole purpose of denying President Trump a second term.

What's sad is that many on the left seem to be not just predicting, but wishing for a severe downturn.  They are counting on a recession in 2019 or 2020, even though it would put millions out of work, depress wages, and shrink savings.  Then they would introduce something like Elizabeth Warren's Accountable Capitalism Act – AKA "Socialism Now."  Warren's bill would, in effect, nationalize the U.S. economy by forcing large and medium-sized companies to operate under highly onerous charters that transfer control of assets from shareholders to workers, consumers, and government.  Small businesses would fall under the same restrictions once they grew to $1 billion in worth – a low bar for fast-growing, successful companies.

Sen. Warren claims that her bill is a valid response to stagnant wages.  Doesn't she know that wages stagnated under President Obama, with regulations in place on banks and other industries much like her own proposals, and that they have risen under President Trump, with regulations withdrawn?

I support President Trump because I enjoy seeing hundreds of millions of workers making record amounts of money.  I love seeing young people out buying homes and new cars.  And I love seeing America winning at home and abroad.  

The left doesn't care about these things.  Leftists care only about their own power and perks, not about ordinary Americans.  That is the reason they are all praying (well, not "praying," exactly) for a Great Depression in 2019.  They want America to fail so that a small clique – themselves – can lord it over the chumps of the heartland.  They want Trump defeated at all costs.  Their hatred of Trump and the voters who elected him is fanatical and vicious, and that's why they are predicting – and hoping for – the Great Depression of 2019.

No one can consistently predict the exact moment at which economic recessions begin.  It may be that one will begin in 2019, but recent data show that the expansion that began under President Trump is continuing.  The expansion and the bull market that has accompanied it may continue past 2020, or they may not.  What's certain is that most of the predictions of catastrophe in 2019 are coming from the left and that they are intended to undercut President Trump's re-election chances in 2020.  Without a painful recession that would harm ordinary Americans, the left has less chance of defeating him.

I don't know whether there will be a recession in 2019 or 2020.  I follow the Federal Reserve in thinking the economy will continue to expand, though at a slower rate than in 2018.  If that's the case, 2019 should be a good year for American workers, and perhaps even for investors.  At least we can watch the ball drop, toast the new year, and know we have a president who is business-friendly in his policies.  Unlike many on the left, I hope 2019 will be a good year for the economy.  The well-being of millions of Americans depends on it.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).