Let's face the mounting facts and just say it in plain English: The world is slipping into Global Recession 2011, and governments don't have the gunpowder to ward it off.
The U.S. economy is barely growing at all. Companies aren't hiring. The federal budget deficit is above $14.5 trillion. Companies are stockpiling cash because, as Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in a press conference this week, because the consumer has pulled back.
Bank of America may need massive capital. European leaders are preparing for a Greek default. Many of Europe's banks won't have the capital to withstand losses on their holdings of Greek debt. Italy's financial status is in question. So is the status of Spain.
Greece is gone, the markets know that, Allan Sinai, chief economist at Decision Economics, told MSNBC.com. We're now looking at Italy and Spain and the potential for Italy going. And that's what's so scary.
It's been two years since the official end to the Great Recession, the worst financial collapse since the 1930s, and despite billions in global government spending and efforts to stave off a double-dip recession, it now appears that those efforts have failed. Just because a new recession hasn't been officially declared doesn't mean we're not at the threshold.
What's scary to many economists about the Global Recession 2011 is that governments are both less equipped and less interested in dealing with financial crisis this go-round. Most are spent from prop-up efforts that began in late 2007 and 2008 during the Great Recession, which has lingered in needs and impact ever since.
The Political Divide Has Widened
Germany, for instance, is typically viewed as Europe's stalwart savior, but that country is laden with roughly $2 trillion in debt. Also, the political divide in agreeing to tackle the problem when costs are involved has grown wider, domestically and abroad.
For instance, the U.S., the world's largest economy, is saddled with debt and political turmoil -- illustrated by a credit rating downgrade last month by Standard & Poors by one notch from AAA amid deep political divide during the debt-ceiling debate in Congress.
So far, however, the U.S. Federal Reserve has taken the strongest action in the fragile economy, announcing this week an historic -- if not highly unorthodox, according to MSNBC -- program of reshuffling $400 billion of its bond holdings to try to push interest rates lower than they already are (which seems nearly impossible, considering they are close to zero).
But the Fed's aggressive action was seen by many as more of a few crackers thrown out to feed a starving society. If anything, it spooked global markets rather than calmed them as with the action, the Fed revealed its deep concern about conditions while also showing there's little more it can do beyond a try-anything approach to make a small dent in a big problem.
Meanwhile, there's no official talk yet there the U.S. is in a recession, but one noted doom-and-gloom economist says a recession may be real -- now.
Dr. Doom: Global Economic Recovery at 'Stall Speed'
Nouriel Dr. Doom, Roubini, the professor at New York University who predicted the collapse of the U.S. housing market and predicted the 2008 recession, said in a speech this week that we may already be in a recession. He said, however, that the U.S. just won't admit it.
Roubini also said the international economic recovery is reaching stall speed and a free fall can't be ruled out.
Speaking at an investment conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, Roubini -- known for his bleak forecasts -- also predicted that leading global economies will not be insulated from effects of another global financial meltdown like the one that crippled the world in 2008, with impact still rippling more than two-and-a-half years later.
He said impact from the 2008 financial crisis is still being felt and that the recession effectively did not end, with lingering results as the situation only continues to get worse without a paternalistic figure to step up and negotiate a way forward.
Roubini said a disorderly default for a Eurozone country could set in motion a series of events that set off a domino effect that tips the rest of the world into recession. Roubini also predicted that developed economies are more likely to contract in the coming months than expand.
These shocks are going to keep on occurring, Ruobini said. Thinking the problems of the Eurozone are going to go away is delusional. ...The risk is actually that there is going be deceleration and the beginning of an economic contraction.
China Won't Be a Savior
Roubini warned that China was not immune to global events and that impact there, considering the fact that China has driven global growth in the past couple of years, could hasten global recession. And others agree with Roubini, as this week's massive sell-off in world markets was sparked, at least in part, by fears that China's huge economy may finally be cooling off, according to The Washington Post.
China is facing a housing bubble and slowing growth while the Chinese government says it is withdrawing from stimulus spending and tightening bank lending, the Post reports, to soak up excess liquidity.
In other words, China doesn't plan on saving the ailing rest of the financial world.
Roubini suggested the result may be that the U.S. and other countries will protest, and resentment will fester over growing economic inequality -- considering recessions typically widen the wealth gap. As the middle class shrinks and a generation of youth sees less opportunity, unrest like what plagued London during the riots of 2011 may not be such a rarity.
If there's any light in this economic day of darkness, with a new recession either real or imminent, it's that U.S. companies are far better prepared this time than they were in 2008. As Ford's Mulally said this week, companies have been stockpiling cash because the consumer has pulled back.
We're ready with the products and services that people really do want, but we're going to match our production of goods and services, cars and trucks, to what the real demand is, Mulally said in a press conference.
That's smart business. But it's also an honest sign of the economic reality.
Companies Hoarding Cash
Other companies have followed the same path, as by early 2011 cash accounted for nearly 13 percent of all corporate assets -- the highest since 1984. The cash-hoarding tactics may have hastened the new recession, since corporate cash stockpiles don't result in hiring, but it could also help some U.S. companies better weather a recession's storm.
But some suggest the stockpiled cash may not be enough to avoid at least a partial repeat of what happened in 2008.
Corporations were generally happy about life in late August early September '08 as well, Jim O'Neill, chairman Goldman Sachs Asset Management, told CNBC. When the financial system really imploded and financial firms stopped extending credit to anybody, the corporate world had to de-stock and we know what happened after that. We are not far off the same sort of thing.
Considering government stimulus and bailout will likely be considerably less than it was in 2008, O'Neill is probably right. Companies have cash, but they won't have much backstop beyond that in a tight-lending environment. Consumers will be strapped. Companies will be strapped. And, governments will be strapped beyond their current low point.
The result, of course, may be that the Global Recession 2011 will be an historic event likely to hurt as much -- or more -- than the Great Recession of 2008. And the sooner that governments, companies and consumers alike start facing that, the better.