Captain Rick: Many economists were shocked by the magnitude of this drop in economic growth. I was surprised, but not shocked. Those following my reports know I have been forecasting a coming recession for some time. I caution that this is only the first of three GDP reports for the 4th quarter of 2012.  It won’t be until the end of March until the third and final GDP figure for the fourth quarter of 2012 is released. The final figure could be slightly higher or lower. Regardless of the final figure, the economic trend is not favorable. How Congress handles the very serious looming U.S. debt crisis, especially the portion of the Fiscal Cliff that was ‘kicked like a can down the road’ will play a roll in future economic growth. If Congress gets tough and addresses the debt crisis head on, I suspect it will present a deeper, temporary plunge into negative growth territory. If Congress continues to ‘kick the can down the road’, I suspect we will see less of a dive in GDP early on…but will set the stage for a much deeper dive in a year or two…possibly as deep or deeper than the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008-2009.

I see several troubling economic factors that parallel the times leading up to the ‘Great Recession’. The world stock markets are within 2% of the all time highs reached just prior to the stock market crash of 2008. Like then, I see no justifiable reason for the recent market rise. It looks to me like a bunch of gamblers in Vegas betting it all. The market is again inflating into a balloon ripe for explosion. Real estate prices have been climbing at a fast pace, as is real estate speculation…similar to that witnessed prior to the bursting of the real estate bubble, prior to the Great Recession. I can not predict how much farther things can go before a repeat of 2008 occurs…but I feel that a down slide is coming at some point soon. Much will have to do with congress’s handling of the debt crisis. The best thing they can do is ‘bite the bullet’ and suffer the consequences of balancing the budget early on. While that will most likely allow our GDP figures to become even worse than they are now, action soon might stave off an economic catastrophe a few years from now. I wish I could offer a more wholesome outlook for the American economy, but the fact remains…America is facing the most serious financial crisis in its history, one which has the potential to reduce America to a third world nation if not handled properly and soon.

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