The bank bailouts and stimulus efforts of 2008 and 2009 gave us a shot at getting the global economy revved up before booming debt in Europe and the United States choked it off.

It was a race against time. We needed the economy to outgrow our rising burden to creditors, be it Chinese sovereign wealth managers or domestic pension funds and bank executives. And 2010 looked promising, with most of the economic numbers picking up.

But after the problems we've seen in 2011 -- including an energy price spike due largely to the Federal Reserve's stimulus efforts and the Arab Spring, economic head winds from the Japanese earthquake, political bickering in Congress and the European debt crisis -- I'm afraid we've missed our chance.

It didn't have to be this way. There were glimmers of hope in June and July, and again in October. Yet they faded like the winter sun as politicians shied away from tough choices and businesses remained cautious. A new recession and a new bear market for stocks now appear unavoidable.

Scarily, recent evidence suggests the downturn has already started. Although stocks are down only around 10% from their May highs -- below the 20% decline that commonly defines a bear market -- I believe the shift has already happened. Stocks have been locked in a downward pattern for the better part of the year. And, as I'll explain below, internal measures of market strength are flashing warning signals.

Image: Anthony Mirhaydari

Anthony Mirhaydari

Yes, the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank did act on Wednesday to try to ease dollar funding in Europe, and markets rallied. But this merely delays the inevitable and does nothing to fix the solvency problem in the eurozone. The West, including the United States, is on a path to debt destruction, plagued by tepid growth and the lack of political will to raises taxes, cut spending or do both.

There is simply too much debt to be serviced at rapidly rising borrowing costs. Helping banks with their day-to-day dollar funding merely treats a symptom, not the disease.

Mind you, I hate to sound so bleak; I've never been part of the run-and-hide crowd, in investing or in life. But without a course correction, this isn't going to be pretty. In fact, it's already getting ugly.

The new recession's epicenter

First, let's talk Europe.

In late October, under intense pressure, eurozone leaders huddled in Brussels to hatch a plan for a 1 trillion euro ($1.35 trillion) insurance fund to attract new capital from overseas and pay for possible bailouts for Italy and Spain. It was the latest in a long line of incremental moves that have likely doomed the euro.

The idea was convoluted from the start. With the Continent's bailout fund -- known as the European Financial Stability Fund -- down to just 250 billion euro, the plan was to leverage it up four times using loan guarantees and special investment vehicles to lure private capital. The money would then be used to go out and buy eurozone government debt.

Ostensibly, this additional rescue funding would give the governments of troubled European governments the time they need to enact painful tax hikes, spending cuts and economic reforms such as higher retirement ages and lower wages and benefits.

The trouble is that governments that inflict such pain on their people don't tend to stay in power. Leaders in Greece, Italy and Spain have all been replaced this month as voters rage against austerity that makes it harder to put food on the table. Ireland, under pressure from pensioners at home, is seeking to renegotiation its 85 billion euro bailout. And protesters have taken to the streets in Lisbon as Portugal warns its 78 billion euro bailout isn't enough; it may need 100 billion instead.

So the bond market has staged a revolt of its own: It is increasingly unwilling to fund Europe. Borrowing costs have surged across the eurozone, with Italian two-year bond yields jumping from around 3% back in August to nearly 8% this week. (Yields rise as companies have to pay more to attract creditors.)

For Italy, the world's third-largest issuer of government paper (behind Japan and the United States) with nearly $2.6 trillion in debt, these levels are crippling.

It gets worse. Italy's contribution constitutes 20% of the European bailout fund. If Italy is in trouble, private investors have to question the viability of the fund itself, and of any plans to leverage it.

France, another key contributor, is also coming under pressure. French financial newspaper La Tribune reported this week that Standard & Poor's is within days of revising France's credit outlook from stable to negative -- the first step in a possible debt downgrade.

The European Financial Stability Fund itself, as it was originally structured, is already having trouble raising private capital. Earlier this month it delayed a bond auction due to adverse "market conditions" before finally using its own money to buy its own bonds to complete the auction. Embarrassing.

As a result, eurozone leaders are acknowledging their expanded EFSF will be able to come up with only around 500 billion euro, and that only by becoming increasingly reliant short-term funding -- of the kind that sank Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and MF Global. Oh, and it won't be operational until January.

Too little, too late.

All the while, France and Germany continue to push for "more Europe" as a solution to the eurozone crisis. That means moving toward tighter fiscal integration that would require spendthrifts like Portugal, Greece and perhaps Italy and Spain to give up national control of their budgets.

Continued on the next page. Stocks mentioned: Kimberly-Clark (KMB, news) and Caterpillar (CAT, news)