The number one American export is U.S. dollars. It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars. The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar. For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars. But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly. For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States. In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”. If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.
The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them. For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy. But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being used to fight their wars for them. The following is from a recent Daily Mail report…
Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”. This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.
Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.
So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction. According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.
“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.
Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is. If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy. For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran…
In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.
This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.
This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.
In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet. In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country. These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports. We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need. Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates. It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.
When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.
And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.
Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.
China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.
So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?
That is a very good question.
In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar. The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento…
Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.
China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”
For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.
But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all. The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us. According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…
What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.
And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…
That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.
And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.
Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.
One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt. The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined. The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.
Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system. The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt. They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.
The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.
And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.
What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.
Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet. When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.
And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.
Just check out what happened in Detroit recently. The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…
Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.
While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.
Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.
Isn’t that crazy?
These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.
And this is just the beginning. Things are going to get much, much worse than this.
So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.
The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.
Did you know that the U.S. national debt has increased by more than a trillion dollars in just over 12 months? On September 30th, 2012 the U.S. national debt was sitting at $16,066,241,407,385.89. Today, it is up to $17,075,590,107,963.57. These numbers come directly from official U.S. government websites and can easily be verified. For a long time the national debt was stuck at just less than 16.7 trillion dollars because of the debt ceiling fight, but now that the debt ceiling crisis has been delayed for a few months the national debt is soaring once again. In fact, just one day after the deal in Congress was reached, the U.S. national debt rose by an astounding 328 billion dollars. In the blink of an eye we shattered the 17 trillion dollar mark with no end in sight. We are stealing about $100,000,000 from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day. This goes on 24 hours a day, month after month, year after year without any interruption.
Over the past five years, the U.S. government has been on the greatest debt binge in history. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t realize just how bad things have gotten because the true budget deficit numbers are not reported on the news. The following is where the U.S. national debt has been on September 30th during the five years previous to this one…
09/30/2009: $ 11,909,829,003,511.75
The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.
Of course all of the blame can’t be placed at the feet of Obama. During the last two elections the American people have given the Republicans a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the government cannot spent a single penny without their approval.
Unfortunately, House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans that are allied with him have repeatedly turned their backs on the people that gave the Republicans the majority and they have authorized trillions of dollars of new debt which will be passed on to future generations of Americans…
Since John Boehner became speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 5, 2011, the debt of the federal government has increased by $3,064,063,380,067.72. That is more than the total federal debt accumulated in the first 200 years of the U.S. Congress–during the terms of the first 48 speakers of the House.
In fact, if all of that debt had been given directly to the American people, every household in America would have been able to buy a new truck…
The $26,722 in new debt per household accumulated under Speaker Boehner would have been more than enough to buy every household in the United States a minivan or pickup truck–or to pay three years of in-state tuition (not counting room and board) at the typical state college.
Sometimes we forget just how much money a trillion dollars is. In a previous article, I included some illustrations that I believe are helpful…
-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.
-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.
We are doing the exact same thing that Greece did, only on a much larger scale. What we are doing is not even close to sustainable, and it will inevitably end very, very badly. The following is what Michael Pento, the president of Pento Portfolio Strategies, told RT the other day…
“That $17 trillion everybody says its 107 percent of GDP, that’s true. But who really cares about the percentage of GDP? It’s the percentage of the debt as a percentage of the revenue – its 700 percent of our revenue. Deficits are growing at 30 percent of our revenue every year added to the deficits we have already. So it’s unsustainable. What is going to happen eventually – a currency and bond market collapse! And it’s not going out 20 years, as I also heard someone mention. In 2016 we’ll probably be spending 40 percent of all of our revenue just to service our debt. That is what the interest payments will equal.”
The U.S. debt situation is so bad that even the Prime Minister of Cyprus is scolding us…
“The U.S. has been fortunate in the sense that it’s like a bank, it prints the money that other people accept. So you can live beyond your means over an extended period of time without being punished by the market.”
Unfortunately, we will not be able to live way beyond our means forever. Reality is going to catch up with us at some point.
Right now, the rest of the world is lending us giant mountains of money at interest rates that are far below the real rate of inflation. This is extremely irrational behavior, and this state of affairs will probably not last too much longer.
But if interest rates go up, it will absolutely cripple the U.S. economy. For much more on this, please see this article.
And what would make things much, much worse is if the rest of the globe starts moving away from using the U.S. dollar. At the moment, the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the planet and this creates a tremendous demand for U.S. dollars and U.S. debt.
If that changes, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the United States, and unfortunately there are already lots of signs that this is already starting to happen. I wrote about this in my recent article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.
But don’t just take my word for it. Just a couple of days ago a major U.K. newspaper came to the same conclusions…
China has overtaken the US as the world’s largest oil importer and goods trading nation. Over the next five years, it will surpass the rest of the world combined in its consumption of base metals.
Given the scale of the country’s consumption of fossil fuels and raw materials, it is only a matter of time before the renminbi replaces the dollar as the primary currency for trading commodities and resources such as crude oil and iron ore.
The debt ceiling farce in Washington and China’s growing reluctance to continue underwriting the US economy by buying up its bonds and adding to America’s near $17 trillion (£10.5 trillion) debt mountain suggests that this tectonic shift in the global trade system could be just around the corner.
So what will happen when the rest of the world decides that they don’t need to use our dollars or buy our debt any longer?
At that point the consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions will result in an avalanche of economic pain that the American people are not prepared for.
Earlier today, I came across a photograph that perfectly captures what America is heading for. The following photo of Mt. Rushmore crying has not been photoshopped. It was taken by Megan Ahrens and it was posted on the Tea Party Command Center. If George Washington was alive today, this is probably exactly how he would feel about the nation that he helped establish…
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.