Just how bad could a real recession actually get?

When we talk of recessions, by and large the only ones that anyone really knows about are the puny little ones that we’ve been getting in recent decades. You know the type: house prices stop going up as fast as they’d been rising or perhaps fall a little bit, interest rates go down and like magic we’re back on track in a couple of years.

This one seems somewhat different. Interest rates haven’t just dropped a little bit, they’ve actually been yanked down right around the world. House prices haven’t really fallen much if you look at the estate agent windows but they’re not selling at the current prices ie they should be a lot lower than the advertised price (hence the mild panic in many estate agents re job security at the moment).

Banks are even being told to ease up on their customers in terms of interest rates and repossessions. Actually, that’s something that they probably don’t need to be told as they genuinely don’t want to be lumbered with a whole lot of houses that they can’t sell: much better that people pay what they can of the mortgage than that the bank takes over the house and then gets stuck with something that they need to pay taxes on and maintain while getting no income from it.

However, it will get worse if this becomes the first real recession since the 1930s. That would mean not only falling house prices but falling prices generally which in turn means widespread unemployment. Back in the 1930s they tackled that unemployment through massive public works programmes but things have moved on a ways since then and I can’t really see people accepting make-work digging up roads and the like.

Depressing, isn’t it? It’s actually worse because of the unwinding of the government loans/investments in the banks around the world which will need to happen at some point as that means higher taxes all round which obviously wouldn’t help what could be a very fragile economy when they kick in.

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