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“Oh, what a lovely slump!”

Reflections on Roubini's latest dirge


Older readers of this column may remember a British film of the late 1960s called “Oh, What a Lovely War”, a skit on the first world war, using popular songs of the time, starring the likes of John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave and Maggie Smith (her of the TV series “Downton Abbey” ). As casualties start to mount, there is a song called “Are we downhearted? No!”. After three years fighting, one of the soldiers, Jack , realises he is back exactly where he started, at Mons. He is the last man to die as Armistice sounds.

The film is actually a bitter attack on the generals involved, the guys designing the strategy that sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths.

I am irresistibly reminded of this film when I read about how this recession is going to go on and on. And about its casualties. We are back where we started. Instead of generals, we have central bankers printing tons of paper and sending it “over the top” in the vain hope of confounding the enemy.

But where is the humour to help us endure?

One the most consistent peddlars of gloom remains Nouriel Roubini. Nouriel’s latest dirge appears in Project Syndicate.

Just in case you were feeling just a little but more cheerful, this will set you straight:

“Starting with the advanced countries, the eurozone recession has spread from the periphery to the core, with France entering recession and Germany facing a double whammy of slowing growth in one major export market (China/Asia) and outright contraction in others (southern Europe).”

“Economic growth in the United States has remained anemic, at 1.5-2% for most of the year, and Japan is lapsing into a new recession. “

“The United Kingdom, like the eurozone, has already endured a double-dip recession, and now even strong commodity exporters – Canada, the Nordic countries, and Australia – are slowing in the face of headwinds from the US, Europe, and China.”

Looking ahead, does Roubini see anything to lift our spirits? You must be joking:

“In 2013, downside risks to global growth will be exacerbated by the spread of fiscal austerity to most advanced economies. Until now, the recessionary fiscal drag has been concentrated in the eurozone periphery and the UK. But now it is permeating the eurozone’s core. “

“At the same time, the eurozone crisis remains unresolved….Specifically, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are still at risk, while bailout fatigue pervades the eurozone core.”

Nouriel concludes that there is obviously “worse to come for the global economy and financial markets in 2013.”

It can only get worse.

We are in the trenches. We are up to our necks in central bank paper, and we know that nothing can stop their diabolical machinery. But as we patiently await our turn, don’t we need a comic, a Charlie Chaplin, and a few popular songs about central bankers to cheer us up?

All we have is Roubini telling us, yet again, not only that we are in an unholy mess (we knew that, mate) but that we have no right even to smile.