On the global financial stage, China is playing chess while the U.S. is playing checkers, and the Chinese are now accelerating their long-term plan to dethrone the U.S. dollar. You see, the truth is that China does not plan to allow the U.S. financial system to dominate the world indefinitely. Right now, China is the number one exporter on the globe and China will have the largest economy on the planet at some point in the coming years. The Chinese would like to see global currency usage reflect this shift in global economic power. At the moment, most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars and more than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars. This gives the United States an enormous built-in advantage, but thanks to decades of incredibly bad decisions this advantage is starting to erode. And due to the recent political instability in Washington D.C., the Chinese sense vulnerability. China has begun to publicly mock the level of U.S. debt, Chinese officials have publicly threatened to stop buying any more U.S. debt, the Chinese have started to aggressively make currency swap agreements with other major global powers, and China has been accumulating unprecedented amounts of gold. All of these moves are setting up the moment in the future when China will completely pull the rug out from under the U.S. dollar.
Today, the U.S. financial system is the core of the global financial system. Because nearly everybody uses the U.S. dollar to buy oil and to trade with one another, this creates a tremendous demand for U.S. dollars around the planet. So other nations are generally very happy to take our dollars in exchange for oil, cheap plastic gadgets and other things that U.S. consumers “need”.
Major exporting nations accumulate huge piles of our dollars, but instead of just letting all of that money sit there, they often invest large portions of their currency reserves into U.S. Treasury bonds which can easily be liquidated if needed.
So if the U.S. financial system is the core of the global financial system, then U.S. debt is “the core of the core” as some people put it. U.S. Treasury bonds fuel the print, borrow, spend cycle that the global economy depends upon.
That is why a U.S. debt default would be such a big deal. A default would cause interest rates to skyrocket and the entire global economic system to go haywire.
Unfortunately for us, the U.S. debt spiral cannot go on indefinitely. Our debt is growing far, far more rapidly than our GDP is, and therefore our debt is completely and totally unsustainable.
The Chinese understand what is going on, and when the dust settles they plan to be the last ones standing. In the aftermath of a U.S. collapse, China anticipates having the largest economy on the planet, more gold than anyone else, and a respected international currency that the rest of the globe will be able to use to conduct international trade.
And China is not just going to sit back and wait for all of this to happen. In fact, they are already doing lots of things to get the ball moving. The following are 9 signs that China is making a move against the U.S. dollar…
#1 Chinese credit rating agency Dagong has downgraded U.S. debt from A to A- and has indicated that further downgrades are possible.
#2 China has just entered into a very large currency swap agreement with the eurozone that is considered a huge step toward establishing the yuan as a major world currency. This agreement will result in a lot less U.S. dollars being used in trade between China and Europe…
The swap deal will allow more trade and investment between the regions to be conducted in euros and yuan, without having to convert into another currency such as the U.S. dollar first, said Kathleen Brooks, a research director at FOREX.com.
“It’s a way of promoting European and Chinese trade, but not doing it with the U.S. dollar,” said Brooks. “It’s a bit like cutting out the middleman, all of a sudden there’s potentially no U.S. dollar risk.”
#3 Back in June, China signed a major currency swap agreement with the United Kingdom. This was another very important step toward internationalizing the yuan.
#4 China currently owns about 1.3 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and this enormous exposure to U.S. debt is starting to become a major political issue within China.
#5 Mei Xinyu, Commerce Minister adviser to the Chinese government, warned this week that if the U.S. government ever does default that China may decide to completely stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds.
#6 According to Yahoo News, China has already been looking for ways to diversify away from the U.S. dollar…
There have been media reports this week that China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the body that handles the country’s $3.66 trillion of foreign exchange reserve, is looking to diversify into real estate investments in Europe.
#7 Xinhua, the official news agency of China, called for a “de-Americanized world” this week, and also made the following statement about the political turmoil in Washington: “The cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonized.”
#8 Xinhua also said the following about the U.S. debt deal on Thursday: “[P]oliticians in Washington have done nothing substantial but postponing once again the final bankruptcy of global confidence in the U.S. financial system”. The commentary in the government-run publication also declared that the debt deal “was no more than prolonging the fuse of the U.S. debt bomb one inch longer.”
#9 China is the largest producer of gold in the world, and it has also been importing an absolutely massive amount of gold from other nations. But instead of slowing down, the Chinese appear to be accelerating their gold buying. In fact, money manager Stephen Leeb says that his sources are telling him that China plans to buy another 5,000 tons of gold. There are many that are convinced that China eventually plans to back the yuan with gold and try to make it the number one alternative to the U.S. dollar.
So exactly what would happen if the Chinese announced someday that they were going to back their currency with gold and would no longer be using the U.S. dollar in international trade?
It would change the face of the global economy almost overnight. In a previous article, I described some of the things that we could expect to see happen…
If China does decide to back the yuan with gold and no longer use the U.S. dollar in international trade, it will have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. Demand for the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt would drop like a rock, and prices on the things that we buy every day would soar. At that point you could forget about cheap gasoline or cheap Chinese imports. Our entire way of life depends on the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world and being able to import things very inexpensively. If the rest of the world (led by China) starts to reject the U.S. dollar, it would result in a massive tsunami of currency coming back to our shores and a very painful adjustment in our standard of living. Today, most U.S. currency is actually used outside of the United States. If someday that changes and we are no longer able to export our inflation that is going to mean big trouble for us.
The fact that we get to print up giant mountains of money and virtually everyone around the world uses it has been a huge boon for the U.S. economy.
When that changes, the word “catastrophic” is not going to be nearly strong enough to describe what is going to happen.
According to a Rasmussen Reports survey that was released this week, only 13 percent of all Americans believe that the country is on the right track. But the truth is that these are the good times. The American people haven’t seen anything yet.
Someday people will look back and desperately wish that they could go back to the “good old days” of 2012 and 2013. This is about as good as things are going to get, and it is only downhill from here.
A U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash unlike anything that the world has ever seen before. If the U.S. government purposely wanted to damage the global financial system, the best way that they could do that would be to default on U.S. debt obligations. A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented. And that would just be for starters. But don’t just take my word for it. These are the things that top financial experts all over the planet are saying will happen if there is an extended U.S. debt default.
Because they are so close together, the “government shutdown” and the “debt ceiling deadline” are being confused by many Americans.
As I wrote about the other day, the “partial government shutdown” that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event. Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world. In fact, only about 17 percent of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment. This “shutdown” could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much.
On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous.
And if the U.S. government is eventually forced to start delaying interest payments on U.S. debt (which could potentially happen as soon as November), that would be absolutely catastrophic.
Once again, just don’t take my word for it. The following are 12 very ominous warnings about what a U.S. debt default would mean for the global economy…
#1 Gerald Epstein, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “If the US does default, that will make the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy look like a cakewalk”
#2 Tim Bitsberger, a former Treasury official under President George W. Bush: “If we miss an interest payment, that would blow Lehman out of the water”
#3 Peter Tchir, founder of New York-based TF Market Advisors: “Once the system starts to break down related to settlement and payments, then liquidity disappears, as we saw after Lehman”
#4 Bill Isaac, chairman of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp: “We can’t even imagine all the things that might happen, just like Henry Paulson couldn’t imagine all the bad things that might happen if he let Lehman go down”
#5 Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer: “Financial markets are all confidence-based. If that confidence is shaken, you have disaster.”
#6 Richard Bove, VP of research at Rafferty Capital Markets: “If they seriously default on the debt, what we’re really talking about is a depression”
#7 Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao: “The U.S. is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate [in Washington] and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”
#8 The U.S. Treasury Department: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”
#9 Goldman Sachs: “We estimate that the fiscal pull-back would amount to 9pc of GDP. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed quickly”
#10 Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF: “It would be insane to default, but it’s no longer a zero-percent probability”
#11 Warren Buffett about the potential of a debt default: “It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use”
#12 Bloomberg: “Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.”
A U.S. debt default could be the trigger for the “nightmare scenario” that so many people have been writing about in recent years. In fact, it could greatly accelerate the timetable for the inevitable economic collapse that is coming. A recent Yahoo article described some of the things that we would likely see in the event of an extended U.S. debt default…
A default would upend money markets, destroy bond funds, slam the brakes on lending, cause interest rates to spiral, make our banks insolvent, and deal a blow to our foreign trading partners and creditors around the globe; all of which would throw the U.S. and the world into economic disarray.
And of course stocks would crash big time. Deutsche Bank’s David Bianco believes that if the U.S. government starts missing interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds, we could see the S&P 500 go down to 850 by the end of the year.
There would be almost immediate panic among ordinary Americans as well. In fact, it is being reported that some banks are already stuffing their ATM machines will extra cash just in case…
With just 10 days left to raise the debt ceiling and congressional Republicans threatening to force the government to default on its obligations, banks are taking some dramatic steps to prepare for the economic chaos that would result should the brinkmanship continue.
The Financial Times reports that one major U.S. bank has started stuffing its automatic teller machines with extra cash in preparation for a possible bank run from panicked depositors. The New York Times reports that another bank is weighing a plan to advance funds to customers who rely on Social Security and other government payments that could stop in the event of a default.
Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that a U.S. debt default will be avoided.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Democrats are absolutely determined not to be moved from their current position a single inch. They have decided to refuse to negotiate and demand that the Republicans give them every single thing that they want.
And who can really blame them for adopting that strategy? After all, it has certainly worked in the past. Whenever Democrats have stood united and have refused to give a single inch, the Republicans have always freaked out and caved in eventually.
Will this time be any different?
The funny thing is that once upon a time, Barack Obama was adamantly against any increase in the debt limit. The following comes courtesy of Zero Hedge…
But now Obama says that it is so unreasonable to be opposed to a debt limit increase that any negotiations are out of the question.
So which Obama is right?
If the Democrats will not negotiate, a debt default could still be avoided if the Republicans give in.
And that is what they always do, right?
Perhaps not this time. Just check out what John Boehner had to say on Sunday…
“I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way,” the speaker said — with demands to defund, delay or otherwise alter the Affordable Care Act.
Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”
“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”
But will the Republicans really stand and fight?
In the past, betting on the intestinal fortitude of the Republican Party has been a loser every single time.
So we’ll see. Boehner insists that this time is different. Boehner insists that he is not going to fold like a 20 dollar suit this time. In fact, when he was asked if the U.S. government was headed toward a debt default if Obama continued to refuse to negotiate, Boehner made the following statement…
“That’s the path we’re on.”
The mainstream media has certainly been placing most of the blame at the feet of the Republicans, but at least the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to get an agreement reached. The House has voted 26 times since the Senate last voted. Harry Reid has essentially shut the Senate down until the Republicans fold and give the Democrats exactly what they want.
The funny thing is that this could probably be solved very easily. If the Democrats agreed to a one year delay to the individual mandate, the Republicans would probably jump at it. And because of epic technical failures, hardly anyone has been able to get signed up for Obamacare anyway. So a one year delay would give the Obama administration time to get their act together.
Unfortunately, the Democrats seem absolutely obsessed with the idea that they will not give the Republicans one single inch. They seem to believe that this will be to their political benefit.
But this is a very dangerous game that they are playing. The U.S. government must roll over 441 billion dollars of short-term debt between October 18th and November 15th.
If a debt ceiling increase is not in place by that time, it will send interest rates soaring. Borrowing costs for state and local governments, corporations, and ordinary Americans will go through the roof and economic activity will be hit really hard.
And as detailed above, we could potentially be looking at a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.
So let us hope for a political solution soon. That will at least kick the can down the road for a little bit longer.
If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.
In an age of “belt tightening” and “budget cuts”, you would think that government officials would be trying to spend our money wisely. Unfortunately, when it comes time to cut spending our politicians tend to do everything that they can to protect their own interests and their own pet projects, but they don’t seem to mind implementing cuts that deeply hurt military families, the poor and the elderly. The facts that you are about to read will likely upset you very much. The federal government and our state governments are wasting money in some of the most ridiculous ways imaginable. Meanwhile, we are being told that we don’t have any money for a lot of really important things. Our hard-earned tax dollars are being horribly mismanaged, and the American people deserve to hear the truth about this gross negligence.
Now before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that I believe that the federal government and our state governments are already taking in more than enough money. They should be able to do everything that they need to do on the money that they are already extracting from all of us. And if we had been living within our means all this time, we would not be drowning in debt as a nation today.
Unfortunately, our politicians did choose to go into tremendous amounts of debt, and the American people did not stop them. So now we are rapidly heading toward a debt crisis unlike anything the world has ever seen before.
And our politicians should be reducing spending. There is no question about that. But what this article is about is priorities, and right now our politicians really seem to have their priorities messed up. What follows are some examples of this…
The city of Detroit says that it is totally broke and has no money for pensions…
…but somehow the city has 444 million dollars to spend on a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings.
Large numbers of federal employees have been hit with mandatory furloughs in 2013 due to the sequester…
…but somehow the federal government is able to spend tens of millions of dollars to fill our skies with surveillance drones.
The U.S. government is so broke that it has had to borrow more than a trillion dollars from China…
…but somehow we have plenty of money to help “modernize China’s energy grid“.
The U.S. Congress has cut $60,000,000 for schools on Indian reservations across the country…
…but somehow the IRS is able to pay out $70,000,000 in bonuses to their workers.
It is being projected that federal budget cuts will cost the U.S. economy 1.6 million jobs through the end of 2014…
…but somehow the federal government has plenty of money to provide many former members of Congress with six-figure annual incomes for life…
Members of Congress receive retirement benefits that are far more generous than those earned by the average worker, according to a recent Bankrate analysis.
Not only do congressional representatives and senators earn the guarantee of a monthly pension check — a benefit that has become increasingly rare for most U.S. workers — they also receive Social Security payments and can opt to pay into the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a 401(k) style-plan with fees that are far lower than most retirement plans.
As a result, longtime members of Congress can easily retire with six-figure annual incomes for life.
The Obama administration is forcing the U.S. Army to reduce the number of active combat brigades from 45 to 33…
…but the Obama administration has no problem finding millions of dollars to send to radical jihadist Syrian rebels that are beheading innocent Christians over in Syria.
Barack Obama says that there simply is not any money available for White House tours…
…but the Obamas are able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on exotic vacations. In August, Obama and his family will be spending 8 days in a beautiful home on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
The federal government says that there was not enough money for the traditional 4th of July fireworks at many military bases around the country this year…
…but somehow the National Institutes of Health has $509,840 to spend on “a study that will send text messages in ‘gay lingo’ to methamphetamine addicts to try to persuade them to use fewer drugs and more condoms.”
Due to “budget cuts”, swimming pools for military families are being shut down all over the country…
…but Barack Obama felt that it was so important to send $500,000,000 to the Palestinian Authority that he signed a national security executive order last Friday that enabled him to get around an act of Congress that was intended to prevent him from sending that money to them.
The state of California is so strapped for cash that it may have to release thousands of violent criminals back on to the streets…
…but somehow the state of California has plenty of money to provide a multitude of welfare benefits for illegal immigrants.
A total of about 38 million dollars is being cut from “meals on wheels” programs around the nation due to the sequester…
…but somehow the federal government has plenty of money to hassle ordinary citizens with ridiculous amounts of red tape. For example, a small-time magician out in Missouri that does magic shows for kids was recently forced to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the rabbit that he uses in his shows.
With priorities like this, is it any wonder that our national debt is completely and totally out of control?
If the U.S. national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills, it would stretch from the earth to the moon five times. It would circle the earth at the equator 45 times.
If our politicians would have been spending our money wisely all of these years, we would have enough money to do the essential things that the government should be doing.
But instead, our money has been wasted in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable, and yet the American people just continue to sit back and allow our politicians to flush our money down the toilet.
So what do you think about all of this? Are there any additional examples that you would add to the list above? Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
Never before has the world faced such a serious debt crisis. Yes, in the past there have certainly been nations that have gotten into trouble with debt, but we have never had a situation where virtually all of the major powers around the globe were all drowning in debt at the same time. And what makes this crisis even more unprecedented is that everyone on the planet is using fiat currency that is backed up by nothing. It is all just a bunch of paper and data points that people have faith in. Right now, confidence in this system is being shaken as debt levels skyrocket to extremely dangerous levels. Many are openly wondering how much longer this can possibly go on.
Just consider what is going on over in Europe right now. Even the countries that have supposedly “tried austerity” continue to rack up debt at a mind blowing pace. New numbers that have just been released show that government debt to GDP ratios for some of the most financially troubled nations in Europe are absolutely soaring…
- Euroarea: 92.2%, up from 88.2% a year ago
- Greece: 160.5%, up from 136.5% a year ago
- Italy: 130.3%; up from 123.8% a year ago
- Portugal: 127.2%, up from 112.3% a year ago
- Ireland: 125.1%, up from 106.8% a year ago
- Spain: 88.2%, up from 73.0% a year ago
- Netherlands: 72.0%, up from 66.7% a year ago
Meanwhile, the debt to GDP ratio in Japan is now well past the 200% mark and continues to march upward with no apparent end in sight. The following is from a recent MSN article…
In Japan, the good news is that the nation’s budget for the fiscal year, which started on April 1, will see the government raise a higher percentage of spending from tax revenue than at any other time in the past four years. The bad news is that the government will still cover 46.3% of its spending from borrowing. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that Japan’s budget deficit for 2013 amounted to 10.3% of gross domestic product.
In China, the big problem is the absolutely stunning growth of private domestic debt. According to a recent World Bank report, the total amount of credit in China has risen from 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to 23 trillion dollars today.
That increase is roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. commercial banking system.
According to financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the ratio of private domestic debt to GDP in China is now wildly out of control…
The 160pc debt ratio for China is based on a conservative measure of credit. Fitch says it is 200pc if you count all offshore vehicles, trusts, letters of credit etc.
This morning China Securities Journal – an arm of the regulators – said it may really be 221pc.
Well, what about the United States?
As I noted the other day, our ratio of federal government debt to GDP has shot up like a rocket since 2008…
At this point, the U.S. already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain. It is a giant mess, and yet our politicians continue to recklessly spend more money.
And of course state and local governments all over the nation are drowning in debt too. The bankruptcy of Detroit is forcing people to come to grips with how bad things really are. Sadly, as Meredith Whitney explained the other day, there are going to be a lot more municipal bankruptcies coming down the pipeline…
As jarring as the reality may be to accept, Detroit’s decision last week to declare bankruptcy should not be regarded as a one-off in the US municipal market – which is what the bond-peddlers are now telling their clients. The aftershocks of the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history will be staggering, and Detroit will set important precedents.
Municipal bankruptcies have historically been rare for a number of reasons – including the states’ determination to preserve their credit ratings, their access to cheap funding and the stigma of bankruptcy. But, these days, things are very different in the world of municipal finance.
At the root of the problem is the incentive system that elected officials used to face. For decades, across the US, local leaders ran up tabs for future taxpayers; they promised pensions and other benefits for public employees that have strong legal protection. That has been a great source of patronage for elected officials: they can promise all sorts of future perks to loyal supporters (state and local workers) with very little accountability on the delivery of those promises.
And of course the overall debt level in the United States continues to grow much, much faster than our overall economy is growing.
The greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet is still expanding.
How long will it be before it bursts?
That is a very good question. For now, our “leaders” appear to just be trying to keep the party going for as long as possible. They know that if they suddenly change course hard times will hit almost immediately. For example, just check out what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week…
With the economy still facing risks, especially from government spending cuts, Bernanke told a congressional panel on Wednesday the Fed is still planning to trim its quantitative easing stimulus, if growth continues at a steady pace.
But expectations that the Fed was poised to start tightening monetary policy, which have sent interest rates jumping and sparked turmoil in global markets, were unwarranted, he stressed.
“I don’t think the Fed can get interest rates up very much, because the economy is weak, inflation rates are low,” Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee.
“If we were to tighten policy, the economy would tank.”
Nobody wants the economy to “tank”, but the truth is that the more debt that we run up, the larger our long-term economic problems become.
And a growing percentage of Americans realize that something has seriously gone wrong. According to a recent Pew Research survey, 44% of all Americans believe that an economic recovery is still “a long way off“.
Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that we are already living in the “economic recovery”.
This is about as good as it is going to get.
The truth is that the real storm has not even hit yet. When the debt bubble finally bursts, we are going to see economic chaos in this country unlike anything that we have ever experienced before.
I hope that you are getting ready.
Anyone that thinks that the U.S. economy can keep going along like this is absolutely crazy. We are in the terminal phase of an unprecedented debt spiral which has allowed us to live far, far beyond our means for the last several decades. Unfortunately, all debt spirals eventually end, and they usually do so in a very disorderly manner. The chart that you are about to see is one of my favorite economic charts. It compares the growth of U.S. GDP to the growth of total debt in the United States. Yes, U.S. GDP has certainly grown at a decent pace over the years, but our total debt has absolutely exploded. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system (government debt + corporate debt + consumer debt, etc.) was about 2 trillion dollars. Today it has grown to more than 56 trillion dollars. Our debt has grown at a much, much faster rate than our economy has, and there is no way in the world that we will be able to continue to do that for long.
Posted below is the chart that I was talking about. The blue line is our total debt, and the red line is our GDP. As you can see, this chart kind of speaks for itself…
So how did we get here?
Well, of course the federal government has been the biggest offender. It would be a tremendous understatement to say that the politicians in Washington D.C. have been reckless. Since the year 2000, the size of the U.S. national debt has grown by more than 11 trillion dollars.
Posted below is a chart that demonstrates the dramatic growth of the national debt as a percentage of GDP. In particular, our debt has absolutely exploded as a percentage of GDP since the financial crisis of 2008…
Does that look sustainable to you?
Of course it isn’t.
Right now, the mainstream media is very excited that the federal budget deficit for this year might be less than a trillion dollars, but they are really missing the point. The debt of the U.S. government is still growing much, much faster than the economy is, and the United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain.
What we are doing to future generations is absolutely criminal. We are piling up mountains of debt that will haunt them for the rest of their lives just so that we can make the present a little bit more pleasant for ourselves.
As I noted in another article, during Obama’s first term the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined. And now we are entering a time period when demographic forces are going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the finances of the federal government.
The Baby Boomers have started to retire, and they are going to want to start collecting on all of the financial promises that we have made to them.
As I have written about previously, the number of Americans on Medicare is projected to grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.
The number of Americans collecting Social Security benefits is projected to grow from about 56 million today to 91 million in 2035.
Where are we going to get the money to pay for all of that?
Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff has calculated that the U.S. government is facing unfunded liabilities of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
There is no simply no way that the U.S. government is going to be able to meet those obligations without wildly printing up money.
And of course the federal government is not the only one with massive debt problems. We just saw the city of Detroit go bankrupt, and there are lots of other communities all over the nation that could soon follow.
Posted below is a chart that shows the growth of state and local government debt over the years. In particular, please take note that the total amount of state and local government debt has grown from about 1.2 trillion dollars in the year 2000 to about 3 trillion dollars today…
But the chart posted above does not even take into account the massive unfunded pension obligations that state and local governments are facing. According to the Detroit Free Press, state governments are facing unfunded pension obligations of nearly a trillion and a half dollars…
From Baltimore to Los Angeles, and many points in between, municipalities are increasingly confronted with how to pay for these massive promises. The Pew Center for the States, in Washington, estimated states’ public pension plans across the U.S. were underfunded by a whopping $1.4 trillion in 2010.
And many large cities are dealing with similar situations. Detroit was the first to go down, but could Chicago or Los Angeles eventually be forced to declare bankruptcy too?…
Chicago recently saw its credit rating downgraded because of a $19-billion unfunded pension liability that the ratings service Moody’s puts closer to $36 billion. And Los Angeles could be facing a liability of more than $30 billion, by some estimates.
According to a report that was released earlier this year, the largest U.S. cities are facing hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities at this point…
Early this year, the Pew Center released a survey showing that 61 of the nation’s largest cities — limiting the survey to the largest city in each state and all other cities with more than 500,000 people — had a gap of more than $217 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities. While cities had long promised health care, life insurance and other benefits to retirees, “few … started saving to cover the long-term costs,” the report said.
So where will all of that money come from?
That is a good question, and nobody has an easy answer at this point.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumers have been racking up staggering amounts of debt over the past several decades. Just consider the following numbers…
-Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
-Car loans just keep getting longer and longer, and approximately 70 percent of all car purchases in the United States now involve an auto loan.
-The total amount of student loan debt in America recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.
-One study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt, and according to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.
-Consumer debt in the United States has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971, and 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.
Sadly, most people don’t realize how damaging credit card debt can be. If you just carry an “average balance” on your credit cards each month, and those credit cards have just an “average” interest rate, you could end up paying millions of dollars to the credit card companies by the end of your life…
Let’s say you are an average American household, and you carry an average balance of $15,956 in credit card debt.
Also, as an average American household, let’s assume you pay an average current rate of 12.83%.
Finally, let’s assume you carry this average balance for 40 years, between ages 25 and 65. How much did your credit card company make off of you and your extreme averageness?
Incredibly, a large percentage of the population does not seem to understand these things. An astounding 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.
Are you starting to understand why approximately half of all Americans die broke?
We are a nation that is completely and addicted to debt.
If you do not believe that it will ever catch up with us you are being delusional.
We have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and a day of reckoning is fast approaching.
When you add maturing debt to the new debt that the federal government is accumulating, the total is quite eye catching. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government must not only borrow enough money to fund government spending for this year, it must also “roll over” existing debt that has reached maturity. Of course the government never actually pays any of that debt off. Instead, it essentially takes out new debts to cover the old ones. So the U.S. government is actually borrowing far more money each year than most Americans realize. For fiscal year 2013, the U.S. budget deficit will be about $845 billion, but on top of that the government will also have to borrow about 3 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is maturing. Overall, the U.S. government will borrow close to 4 trillion dollars this year, and that number will likely be even higher next year. That is not going to cause a crisis as long as interest rates stay super low, but if interest rates begin to rise substantially, the game will change dramatically.
When the government borrows money, it has to pay it back someday. Back in the old days, the federal government used to issue lots of debt that would not mature for a very long time. But in recent years things have been very different…
In order to fund the government, the Treasury Department periodically auctions Treasury securities with various maturities ranging from 30-day Treasury bills to 30-year Treasury bonds, with 2-3-5-7-year and 10-year Treasury notes in between. It used to be that the bulk of Treasury borrowing was done in the longer-term instruments with maturities of at least 10 years.
In more recent years, however, this trend has shifted more toward shorter-term Treasury securities. There are pros and cons to both strategies. Generally speaking, the shorter maturities are considered more risky since short-term interest rates can vary frequently. Shorter-term maturities obviously have to be rolled over much more often. That raises the risk that there might not be enough buyers when the government needs them.
At this point, the average maturity of outstanding government debt is only 65 months, and only about 10 percent of all Treasury debt matures outside of a decade.
So what does that mean?
It means that the federal government must constantly roll over massive amounts of debt. Once again, this is not too much of a problem as long as interest rates stay super low, but as John Cochrane pointed out, if rates start rising back to “normal” levels things could get quite hairy very quickly…
Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5 percent, i.e. back to normal, and the US has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion) – doubling already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation – which did not hit them, since they are on the Euro – can hit us.
Sadly, those running things appears to be quite clueless. For example, retiring U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann recently asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke why the national debt has remained frozen in place for 56 straight days even though we have been borrowing lots of money. Bernanke seemed to have no idea how to answer that question…
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, Bachmann asked how there could be no increase reported in the total debt when the government is racking up about $4 billion a day in new debt.
“After nearly 10 years as the head of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke could not answer my question today in Financial Services Committee,” Bachmann told WND.
She wondered if there’s a political motive.
“I asked whether the Treasury Department was cooking the federal government’s books as it was reported that the Feds debt balance sheet remained at $16,699,396,000,000 for 56 days straight, presumably so the Treasury Department wouldn’t officially register that once again the Congress had exceeded its legal borrowing limits.”
For the moment, the federal government is able to recklessly borrow and spend money and investors are rewarding this behavior with super low interest rates.
Unfortunately, this state of affairs is completely and totally unsustainable. At some point global financial markets will begin to behave rationally, and when that happens it is going to mean a tremendous amount of pain for the United States.
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt at a time when the U.S. economy has been steadily declining. Anyone that thinks that we can continue to pile up more debt like this indefinitely does not know what they are talking about.
The following are some more statistics about the U.S. national debt for you to consider…
-Back in 1980, the U.S. national debt was less than one trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 17 trillion dollars.
-During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
-The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
-If you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.
-If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
-If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
-Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer. Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
-If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.
-The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
-At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
-The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.
-The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.
-The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
-Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay. Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”. His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
For the moment everything is fine because interest rates are incredibly low and the mockers in the “deficits don’t matter” fan club are having a field day.
But what is going to happen when interest rates return to rational levels?
How will the U.S. government be able to borrow the trillions of dollars that it needs to borrow every single year?
That is why it is so important to watch interest rates. When they start skyrocketing, big trouble is ahead.
Did you know that you are involved in the most massive Ponzi scheme that has ever existed? To illustrate my point, allow me to tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was a man named Sam. When he was younger, he had been a very principled young man that had worked incredibly hard and that had built a large number of tremendously successful businesses. He became fabulously wealthy and he accumulated far more gold than anyone else on the planet. But when he started to get a little older he forgot the values of his youth. He started making really bad decisions and some of his relatives started to take advantage of him. One particularly devious relative was a nephew named Fred. One day Fred approached his uncle Sam with a scheme that his friends the bankers had come up with. What happened next would change the course of Sam’s life forever.
Even though Sam was the wealthiest man in the world by far, Fred convinced Sam that he could have an even higher standard of living by going into a little bit of debt. In exchange for IOUs issued by his uncle Sam, Fred would give him paper notes that he printed off on his printing press. Since the paper notes would be backed by the gold that Sam was holding, everyone would consider them to be valuable. Sam could take those paper notes and spend them on whatever his heart desired. Uncle Sam started to do this, and he started to become addicted to all of the nice things that those paper notes would buy him.
Fred took the IOUs that he received from his uncle and he auctioned them off to the bankers. But there was a problem. The IOUs issued by Uncle Sam had to be paid back with interest. When the time came to pay back the IOUs, Uncle Sam could not afford to pay back the debts, pay the interest on those debts, and buy all of the nice things that he wanted. So Uncle Sam issued even more IOUs than before so that he could get enough notes to pay off his debts. As time rolled on, this pattern just kept on repeating. Uncle Sam repeatedly paid off his old debts by taking out even larger new debts.
Meanwhile, since the notes that Uncle Sam was using were backed by gold, everyone else in the world decided to start using them to trade with one another. This was greatly beneficial to Uncle Sam, because the rest of the world was glad to send him oil, home electronics, plastic trinkets and anything else that Uncle Sam wanted in exchange for his gold-backed notes.
Eventually, however, the rest of the world started to suspect that the number of gold-backed notes that Uncle Sam was issuing far exceeded the amount of gold that Uncle Sam actually had. So the rest of the world started to trade in their notes for gold.
And by that time Uncle Sam definitely did not have enough gold to back up his notes. Realizing that the scheme was starting to collapse, one day Uncle Sam announced that his notes would no longer be backed by gold. But he insisted that the rest of the world should continue using his notes because he was the wealthiest man on the planet and everyone should just trust him.
And the rest of the world did continue to trust him, although it wasn’t the same as before.
As Uncle Sam got greedier and greedier, he started to issue IOUs and spend notes at a rate that nobody ever dreamed possible. The great businesses that Uncle Sam had built when he was younger were starting to decline, and Uncle Sam started buying far more stuff from the rest of the world than they bought from him. The rest of the world was still glad to take Uncle Sam’s notes because they used them to trade with one another, but they started accumulating far more notes than they actually needed.
Not sure exactly what to do with mountains of these notes, the rest of the world started to loan them back to Uncle Sam. It eventually got to the point where Uncle Sam owed the rest of the world trillions of these notes. Even though the notes were losing value at a rate of close to 10 percent a year, Uncle Sam somehow convinced the rest of the world to loan him notes at an average rate of interest of less than 3 percent a year.
One day Uncle Sam woke up and realized that the amount of debt that he owed was now more than 5000 times larger than it was when Fred had first approached him with this ill-fated scheme. Uncle Sam now owed more than 16 trillion notes to his creditors, and Uncle Sam had already made future financial commitments of 202 trillion notes that he would never be able to pay. Meanwhile, the notes that Fred had been printing up for Uncle Sam were now worth less than 5 percent of their original value. Uncle Sam was becoming concerned because some of his other relatives were warning that this whole scheme was about to collapse.
Sadly, Uncle Sam did not listen to them. Uncle Sam knew that if he admitted how fraudulent the financial scheme was, the rest of the world would quit sending him all of the things that he needed in exchange for his notes and they would quit lending his notes back to him at super low interest rates.
And if the rest of the world lost confidence in his notes and quit using them, Uncle Sam knew that his standard of living would go way, way down. That was something that Uncle Sam could not bear to have happen.
When a financial crisis almost caused the scheme to crash in 2008, a desperate Uncle Sam went to Fred and asked for help. In response, Fred started printing up far more notes than ever before and started directly buying up large amounts of IOUs from Uncle Sam with the notes that he was creating out of thin air. Fred hoped that the rest of the world would not notice what he was doing.
It seemed to work for a little while, but then an even worse financial crisis came along. Once again, Uncle Sam started issuing massive amounts of new IOUs and Fred started printing up giant mountains of new notes to try to fix things, but their desperate attempts to keep the system going were to no avail. The rest of the world started to realize that they had been sucked into a massive Ponzi scheme, and they lost confidence in the notes that Uncle Sam was using. Suddenly nobody wanted to lend notes to Uncle Sam at super low interest rates anymore, and people started asking for far more notes in exchange for the things that Uncle Sam wanted.
Uncle Sam’s standard of living dropped dramatically. Since he could no longer flood the world with his notes, Uncle Sam could not continue to consume far, far more wealth than he produced. Uncle Sam sunk into a deep depression as he watched the scheme fall apart all around him.
Uncle Sam had once been the wealthiest man on the entire planet, but now he was a broke, tired old man that was absolutely drowning in debt. Unfortunately, once he was down on his luck the rest of the world did not have any compassion for him. In fact, much of the rest of the world celebrated the downfall of Uncle Sam.
All of this could have been avoided if Uncle Sam had never agreed to Fred’s crazy scheme. And once Uncle Sam made the decision to stop backing his notes with gold, it was only a matter of time before the scheme was going to collapse.
Does this little story sound crazy to you? It shouldn’t. The truth is that you are involved in such a scheme right now. In case you haven’t figured it out, “Uncle Sam” is the United States, the “notes” are U.S. dollars, and “Fred” is the Federal Reserve.
Please share this story with as many people as you can. Our country is headed for complete and total financial disaster, and we need to get people educated about this while there is still time.