Whatever Batra's standing, the issue of whether the United States and the rest of the world are heading for an economic crash is, of course, an important one, and Batra is not alone in citing dangers on the economic landscape. Many economists point to the trade and budget deficits, high levels of debt by consumers and the soaring stock market all as serious causes for worry.
But few forecast a massive depression. And, in a profession where the phrase "on the other hand" is uttered with maddening regularity, not even the gloomiest of other analysts sound as certain of the impending troubles as does Batra.
Thurow, for example, said he believes that a stock market plunge is possible, but he argued that it would take a collapse of the banking system to cause a depression and that that is not likely to happen.
"There are lots of reasons--some similar to what might have existed in the 1920s, some not--why anyone should be concerned that the future won't be as bright as we might like," said Lawrence Chimerine, chairman of Wharton Econometrics in Bala-Cynwyd, Pa. "But that doesn't necessarily mean a depression. We might just go into a period of slow growth like the United Kingdom."
But Batra does not seem to mind the critics--some of whom have been withering, such as the writer for Forbes magazine who declared that "Batra's bafflegab is awful, appalling, terrible, no redeeming features whatsoever. If you want cycles, stick to Wheel of Fortune."
In return, the professor dismisses much of his profession with an amusement that borders on disdain: "Look at the forecasts of every other economist. They change them every three or six months--and they're still wrong." The best-selling author added of his colleagues' writings: "In every article I find 20 pages of equations and one page of naive conclusions."
Meanwhile, Batra scurries to keep up with appearances in various cities and with the constant demand for interviews. At the current rate, he said, the book's profits will approach half a million dollars by the end of the year.