This chapter examines the development of the US economy since the prolonged recession in the early 1980s. This period was characterised by a serious weakening in the bargaining position of waged workers and a major expansion of the financial sector. Most of the economic gains accrued to top earners and economic growth became increasingly dependent on the expansion of credit. This precarious constellation led to short recessions in 1990 and again in 2001, but then in 2007 and 2008 the failure of highly complex financial securities led to the most serious financial crisis since 1929. The chapter reviews the development of profitability, income distribution and other key macroeconomic variables in the period leading up to, during, and immediately after the crisis. It then identifies the main channels by which the crisis was transmitted from the US to other advanced capitalist economies and concludes with a brief review of the policy measures introduced by the US government in response to the crisis.
Since the prolonged recession in 1980–1982 which laid the basis for the emergence of finance-led capitalism in the US there have been four phases of economic expansion. The first three ended with increasingly severe recessions in 1990–1991, 2001 and 2007–2009. The most recent expansion, which began in mid 2009, has been characterised by relatively low growth and investment has been weaker than in previous expansions. Unemployment has fallen sharply, but many of the new jobs have been in low-paid services. The Trump government's much-touted investment programme is dependent on mobilising private funding but this has not yet been very forthcoming. Moves to relax the tighter banking regulations introduced in 2010, while strongly welcomed by the big banks, have been widely criticised. Key indicators of financial tensions are unusually low, but profitability and investment, which usually serve as leading indicators of the business cycle, have begun to decline and this suggests that the current expansion could be approaching an end.