LAST year, the debate over how long the recession will last was between those in the consensus who argued that it would be V-shaped — only about eight months long like those in 1990 to 1991 and in 2001 — and those like me who argued that it would last at least three times as long, 24 months, and be more than three times as deep as the previous two.
Today, as we enter the 15th month, it’s obvious that we are already in a painful U-shaped recession that has become global and will last at least until the end of the year — 24 months, the longest since the Great Depression. Even if the gross domestic product grows in 2010, it is likely to be no higher than 1 percent. And at that rate, with the unemployment rate rising toward 10 percent, we will still be substantially in a recession.
Even if appropriate aggressive policy actions were undertaken — monetary and fiscal stimulus, bank clean-up and credit restoration, mortgage debt reduction for insolvent households — the growth rate would not rise closer to 2 percent until 2011. So this recession may last 36 months.And things could get worse. We now face a 1 in 3 chance that, if appropriate policies are not put in place, this ugly U-shaped recession may turn into a more virulent L-shaped near-depression or stag-deflation (a deadly combination of economic stagnation and price deflation) like the one Japan experienced in the 1990s after its real estate and equity bubbles burst.