"We noted that in the Great Depression, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by nearly 50 percent over three years. It was an unprecedented calamity. Bearing this in mind, we compared the current situation to other events since World War II to see if there was a framework for measuring it. We found that framework in the Savings and Loan crisis of 1989, when an entire sector of the U.S. financial system collapsed and the federal government intervened -- essentially guaranteeing or purchasing commercial real estate, whose price decline had triggered the crisis. We noted that the total amount allocated by the federal government in that crisis was about 6.5 percent of the GDP (and the amount actually spent, before recouping of costs via sales, was less than 3 percent). We noted also that in the current crisis another sector of the financial system -- the investment banks -- were devastated, and that the federal government intervened, this time at about 5 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, the equity markets had not declined as much as they did in 2000-2001, and as of the second quarter of this year the economy was still growing by more than 2 percent. From this we concluded that the U.S. economy was moving into a recession but that the recession would not break the framework of the postwar economy, although clearly the degree of government intervention will reshape the financial markets.
...The United States is a $14 trillion economy with a potential problem amounting to $1-2 trillion (and probably far less than that). If the government intervenes, it will create inequities and imbalances in the system. But between the size of the economy and the government printing press, the problem will be managed -- particularly because there are underlying assets -- houses -- that can be monetized in the long run. The gridlock in the financial system will undoubtedly create a recession, but there hasn't been one for seven years and it's high time."
--- as reported in John Mauldin's newsletter, 10.16.08 (JohnMauldin@InvestorsInsight.com)