What would you say if I told you that Americans are nearly 60 TRILLION dollars in debt? Well, it is true. When you total up all forms of debt including government debt, business debt, mortgage debt and consumer debt, we are 59.4 trillion dollars in debt. That is an amount of money so large that it is difficult to describe it with words. For example, if you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you had spent 80 million dollars every single day since then, you still would not have spent 59.4 trillion dollars by now. And most of this debt has been accumulated in recent decades. If you go back 40 years ago, total debt in America was sitting at about 2.2 trillion dollars. Somehow over the past four decades we have allowed the total amount of debt in the United States to get approximately 27 times larger. This is utter insanity, and anyone that thinks this is sustainable is completely deluded. We are living in the greatest debt bubble of all time, and there is no way that this is going to end well. Just check out the chart…
When the last recession hit, total debt in America actually started going down for a short period of time.
But then the Federal Reserve and our politicians in Washington worked feverishly to reinflate the bubble and they assured everyone that everything was going to be just fine. So Americans once again resorted to their free spending ways, and now total debt in the United States is rising at almost the same trajectory as before and has hit a new all-time record high.
We see a similar thing when we look at a chart for consumer debt in America…
For a while after the recession it was trendy to cut up your credit cards and get out of debt.
But that fad wore off rather quickly, didn’t it?
It is almost as if 2008 never happened. We are making the same mistakes with debt that we did before.
As I noted recently, total consumer credit in the U.S. has risen by 22 percent over the past three years alone, and at this point 56 percent of all Americans have a subprime credit rating.
And have you noticed that a lot of people are not afraid to extend themselves in order to buy shiny new vehicles these days?
During the first quarter 0f this year, the size of the average vehicle loan soared to a new all-time record high of $27,612.
Five years ago, that number was just $24,174.
And as I noted in one recent article, the size of the average monthly car payment in this country is now up to $474.
That is practically a mortgage payment.
Speaking of mortgage payments, even though home sales have been falling and the rate of homeownership in the United States is the lowest that it has been in 19 years, a very large percentage of those who own homes are still overextended.
In fact, one recent survey discovered that a whopping 52 percent of Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.
At the same time, an increasing number of Americans are acting as if the last financial crisis never happened and are treating their homes like piggy banks. Home equity loans are soaring again, and when the next great crisis strikes a lot of those people are going to end up getting into a lot of financial trouble.
There has been much written about what is wrong with the housing industry, but the truth is that home prices are still way too high and young adults cannot afford to purchase homes because they are already loaded down by huge amounts of debt even before they get to the point where they are ready to buy.
In fact, a newly released survey found that 47 percent of millennials are spending at least half of their paychecks on paying off debt…
Four in 10 millennials say they are “overwhelmed” by their debt — nearly double the number of baby boomers who feel that way, according to a Wells Fargo survey of more than 1,600 millennials between 22 and 33 years old, and 1,500 baby boomers between 49 and 59 years old.
To try to get out from underneath it, 47% said they spend at least half of their monthly paychecks on paying off their debts.
When I read that I was absolutely astounded.
Of course the biggest debt that many young adults are facing is student loan debt. According to the Federal Reserve, there is now more than 1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt in this country, and about 124 billion dollars of that total is more than 90 days delinquent.
What we have done to our young people is shameful. We have encouraged them to sign up for a lifetime of debt slavery before they even understand what life is all about. The following is an excerpt from my previous article entitled “Is College A Waste Of Time And Money?“…
In America today, approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loan debt, and the average debt level has been steadily rising. In fact, one study found that “70 percent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt – averaging $35,200 – including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards.”
That would be bad enough if most of these students were getting decent jobs that enabled them to service that debt.
But unfortunately, that is often not the case. It has been estimated that about half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.
Considering what you just read, is it a surprise that half of all college graduates in America are still financially dependent on their parents when they are two years out of college?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 36 percent of all Americans under the age of 35 own a home at this point. That is the lowest level that has ever been recorded.
And we are passing on to our young people the largest single debt in all of human history. Weighing in at 17.5 trillion dollars, the U.S. national debt is a colossal behemoth. And almost all of that debt has been accumulated over the past 40 years. In fact, 40 years ago the U.S. national debt was less than half a trillion dollars.
But this is just the beginning. As the Baby Boomer “demographic tsunami” washes through our economy, we are going to be facing a wave of red ink unlike anything we have ever contemplated before.
Meanwhile, the rest of the planet is drowning in debt as well.
As I wrote about the other day, the total amount of debt in the world has risen to a new all-time record high of $223,300,000,000,000.
Our “leaders” keep acting as if these debt levels can keep growing much faster than the overall level of economic growth indefinitely.
But anyone with even a shred of common sense knows that you can’t spend more money that you bring in forever.
At some point, a day of reckoning arrives.
2008 should have been a major wake up call that resulted in massive changes. But instead, our leaders just patched up the old system and reinflated the old bubbles so that they are now even larger than they were before.
They assure us that they know exactly what they are doing and that everything will be just fine.
Unfortunately, they are dead wrong.
The numbers that you are about to see are likely to shock you. They prove that the global financial Ponzi scheme is far more extensive than most people would ever dare to imagine. As you will see below, the total amount of debt in the world is now more than three times greater than global GDP. In other words, you could take every single good and service produced on the entire planet this year, next year and the year after that and it still would not be enough to pay off all the debt. But even that number pales in comparison to the exposure that big global banks have to derivatives contracts. It is hard to put into words how reckless they have been. At the low end of the estimates, the total exposure that global banks have to derivatives contracts is 710 trillion dollars. That is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable. And the reality of the matter is that there is really not all that much actual “money” in circulation today. In fact, as you will read about below, there is only a little bit more than a trillion dollars of U.S. currency that you can actually hold in your hands in existence. If we all went out and tried to close our bank accounts and investment portfolios all at once, that would create a major league crisis. The truth is that our financial system is little more than a giant pyramid scheme that is based on debt and paper promises. It is literally a miracle that it has survived for so long without collapsing already.
When Americans think about the financial crisis that we are facing, the largest number that they usually can think of is the size of the U.S. national debt. And at over 17 trillion dollars, it truly is massive. But it is actually the 2nd-smallest number on the list below. The following are 12 numbers about the global financial Ponzi scheme that should be burned into your brain…
–$1,280,000,000,000 – Most people are really surprised when they hear this number. Right now, there is only 1.28 trillion dollars worth of U.S. currency floating around out there.
–$17,555,165,805,212.27 – This is the size of the U.S. national debt. It has grown by more than 10 trillion dollars over the past ten years.
–$32,000,000,000,000 – This is the total amount of money that the global elite have stashed in offshore banks (that we know about).
–$48,611,684,000,000 – This is the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts.
–$59,398,590,000,000 – This is the total amount of debt (government, corporate, consumer, etc.) in the U.S. financial system. 40 years ago, this number was just a little bit above 2 trillion dollars.
–$70,088,625,000,000 – This is the total exposure that JPMorgan Chase has to derivatives contracts.
–$71,830,000,000,000 – This is the approximate size of the GDP of the entire world.
–$75,000,000,000,000 – This is approximately the total exposure that German banking giant Deutsche Bank has to derivatives contracts.
–$100,000,000,000,000 – This is the total amount of government debt in the entire world. This amount has grown by $30 trillion just since mid-2007.
–$223,300,000,000,000 – This is the approximate size of the total amount of debt in the entire world.
–$236,637,271,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the total exposure that the top 25 banks in the United States have to derivatives contracts. But those banks only have total assets of about 9.4 trillion dollars combined. In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 25 to 1.
–$710,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives contracts generally fall within this range. At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives exposure to global GDP is about 21 to 1.
Most people tend to assume that the “authorities” have fixed whatever caused the financial world to almost end back in 2008, but that is not the case at all.
In fact, the total amount of government debt around the globe has grown by about 40 percent since then, and the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since then.
Our “authorities” didn’t fix anything. All they did was reinflate the bubble and kick the can down the road for a little while.
I don’t know how anyone can take an honest look at the numbers and not come to the conclusion that this is completely and totally unsustainable.
How much debt can the global financial system take before it utterly collapses?
How recklessly can the big banks behave before the house of cards that they have constructed implodes underneath them?
For the moment, everything seems fine. Stock markets around the world have been setting record highs and credit is flowing like wine.
But at some point a day of reckoning is coming, and when it arrives it is going to be the most painful financial crisis the world has ever seen.
If you plan on getting ready before it strikes, now is the time to do so.
Today, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire. This is going to happen day after day, month after month, year after year until 2030. It is the greatest demographic tsunami in the history of the United States, and we are woefully unprepared for it. We have made financial promises to the Baby Boomers worth tens of trillions of dollars that we simply are not going to be able to keep. Even if we didn’t have all of the other massive economic problems that we are currently dealing with, this retirement crisis would be enough to destroy our economy all by itself. During the first half of this century, the number of senior citizens in the United States is being projected to more than double. As a nation, we are already drowning in debt. So where in the world are we going to get the money to take care of all of these elderly people?
The Baby Boomer generation is so massive that it has fundamentally changed America with each stage that it has gone through. When the Baby Boomers were young, sales of diapers and toys absolutely skyrocketed. When they became young adults, they pioneered social changes that permanently altered our society. Much of the time, these changes were for the worse.
According to the New York Post, overall household spending peaks when we reach the age of 46. And guess what year the peak of the Baby Boom generation reached that age?…
People tend, for instance, to buy houses at about the same age — age 31 or so. Around age 53 is when people tend to buy their luxury cars — after the kids have finished college, before old age sets in. Demographics can even tell us when your household spending on potato chips is likely to peak — when the head of it is about 42.
Ultimately the size of the US economy is simply the total of what we’re all spending. Overall household spending hits a high when we’re about 46. So the peak of the Baby Boom (1961) plus 46 suggests that a high point in the US economy should be about 2007, with a long, slow decline to follow for years to come.
And according to that same article, the Congressional Budget Office is also projecting that an aging population will lead to diminished economic growth in the years ahead…
Lost in the discussion of this week’s Congressional Budget Office report (which said 2.5 million fewer Americans would be working because of Obamacare) was its prediction that aging will be a major drag on growth: “Beyond 2017,” said the report, “CBO expects that economic growth will diminish to a pace that is well below the average seen over the past several decades [due in large part to] slower growth in the labor force because of the aging of the population.”
So we have a problem. Our population is rapidly aging, and an immense amount of economic resources is going to be required to care for them all.
Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when our economy is steadily declining.
The following are some of the hard numbers about the demographic tsunami which is now beginning to overtake us…
1. Right now, there are somewhere around 40 million senior citizens in the United States. By 2050 that number is projected to skyrocket to 89 million.
2. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
3. One poll discovered that 26 percent of all Americans in the 46 to 64-year-old age bracket have no personal savings whatsoever.
4. According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “60 percent of American workers said the total value of their savings and investments is less than $25,000″.
5. 67 percent of all American workers believe that they “are a little or a lot behind schedule on saving for retirement”.
6. A study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.
7. Back in 1991, half of all American workers planned to retire before they reached the age of 65. Today, that number has declined to 23 percent.
8. According to one recent survey, 70 percent of all American workers expect to continue working once they are “retired”.
9. A poll conducted by CESI Debt Solutions found that 56 percent of American retirees still had outstanding debts when they retired.
10. A study by a law professor at the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States. Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies.
11. Today, only 10 percent of private companies in the U.S. provide guaranteed lifelong pensions for their employees.
12. According to Northwestern University Professor John Rauh, the total amount of unfunded pension and healthcare obligations for retirees that state and local governments across the United States have accumulated is 4.4 trillion dollars.
13. Right now, the American people spend approximately 2.8 trillion dollars on health care, and it is being projected that due to our aging population health care spending will rise to an astounding 4.5 trillion dollars in 2019.
14. Incredibly, the United States spends more on health care than China, Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia combined.
15. If the U.S. health care system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.
16. When Medicare was first established, we were told that it would cost about $12 billion a year by the time 1990 rolled around. Instead, the federal government ended up spending $110 billion on the program in 1990, and the federal government spent approximately $600 billion on the program in 2013.
17. It is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
18. At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years. That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.
19. In 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. Today, that number has fallen to 2.5 workers, and if you eliminate all government workers, that leaves only 1.6 private sector workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.
20. Right now, there are approximately 63 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits. By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.
21. Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
22. The U.S. government is facing a total of 222 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities during the years ahead. Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of that.
So where are we going to get the money?
That is a very good question.
The generations following the Baby Boomers are going to have to try to figure out a way to navigate this crisis. The bright future that they were supposed to have has been destroyed by our foolishness and our reckless accumulation of debt.
But do they actually deserve a “bright future”? Perhaps they deserve to spend their years slaving away to support previous generations during their golden years. Young people today tend to be extremely greedy, self-centered and lacking in compassion. They start blogs with titles such as “Selfies With Homeless People“. Here is one example from that blog…
Of course not all young people are like that. Some are shining examples of what young Americans should be.
Unfortunately, those that are on the right path are a relatively small minority.
In the end, it is our choices that define us, and ultimately America may get exactly what it deserves.
The Federal Reserve is creating hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and using that money to buy U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities and take them out of circulation. Since the middle of 2008, these purchases have caused the Fed’s balance sheet to balloon from under a trillion dollars to nearly four trillion dollars. This represents the greatest central bank intervention in the history of the planet, and Janet Yellen says that she does not anticipate that it will end any time soon because “the recovery is still fragile”. Of course, as I showed the other day, the truth is that quantitative easing has done essentially nothing for the average person on the street. But what QE has done is that it has sent stocks soaring to record highs. Unfortunately, this stock market bubble is completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and when the easy money is taken away the bubble will collapse. Just look at what happened a few months ago when Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may begin to “taper” the amount of quantitative easing that it was doing. The mere suggestion that the flow of easy money would start to slow down a little bit was enough to send the market into deep convulsions. This is why the Federal Reserve cannot stop monetizing debt. The moment the Fed stops, it could throw our financial markets into a crisis even worse than what we saw back in 2008.
The problems that plagued our financial system back in 2008 have never been fixed. They have just been papered over temporarily by trillions of easy dollars from the Federal Reserve. All of this easy money is keeping stocks artificially high and interest rates artificially low.
Right now, the Federal Reserve is buying approximately 85 billion dollars worth of U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities each month. We are told that the portion going to buy U.S. government debt each month is approximately 45 billion dollars, but who knows what the Fed is actually doing behind the scenes. In any event, by creating money out of thin air and using it to remove U.S. Treasury securities out of circulation, the Federal Reserve is essentially monetizing U.S. government debt at a staggering rate.
But Federal Reserve officials continue to repeatedly deny that what they are doing is monetizing debt. For instance, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart strongly denied this back in April: “I object to the view that the Fed is monetizing the debt”.
How in the world can Fed officials possibly deny that they are monetizing the debt?
Well, because the Fed is promising that it is going to eventually sell back all of the securities that it is currently buying.
Since the Fed does not plan to keep all of this government debt on its balance sheet indefinitely, that means that they are not actually monetizing it according to their twisted logic.
Try not to laugh.
And of course that will never, ever happen. There is no possible way that the Fed will ever be able to stop recklessly creating money and then turn around and sell off 3 trillion dollars worth of government debt and mortgage-backed securities that it has accumulated since 2008. Just look at the chart posted below. Does this look like something that the Federal Reserve will ever be able to “unwind”?…
Remember, just the suggestion that the Fed would begin to slow down the pace of this buying spree a little bit was enough to send the financial markets into panic mode a few months ago.
If the Fed does decide to permanently stop quantitative easing at some point, stocks will drop dramatically and interest rates will skyrocket because there will be a lot less demand for U.S. Treasuries. In fact, interest rates have already risen substantially over the past few months even though quantitative easing is still running.
Right now, the Fed is supplying a tremendous amount of the demand for U.S. debt securities in the marketplace. According to Zero Hedge, Drew Brick of RBS recently made the following statement about the staggering amount of government debt that is currently being monetized by the Fed…
“On a rolling six-month average, in fact, the Fed is now responsible for monetizing a record 70% of all net supply measured in 10y equivalents. This represents a reliance on the Fed that is greater than ever before in history!“
Overall, the Federal Reserve now holds 32.47 percent of all 10 year equivalents, and that percentage is rising by about 0.3 percent each week.
If the Federal Reserve does not keep doing this, the financial markets are going to crash because they are being propped up artificially by all of this funny money.
But if the Federal Reserve keeps doing this, it is going to become increasingly obvious to the rest of the world that the Fed is simply monetizing debt and is starting to behave like the Weimar Republic.
The remainder of the planet is watching what the Federal Reserve is doing very carefully, and they are starting to ask themselves some very hard questions.
Why should they continue to use our dollars to trade with one another when the Fed is wildly creating money out of thin air and rapidly devaluing the existing dollars that they are holding?
And why should they continue to lend us trillions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates that are way below the real rate of inflation when the U.S. government is already drowning in debt and the money that will be used to pay those debts back will be steadily losing value with each passing day?
The Federal Reserve is in very dangerous territory. If the Fed wants the current system to continue, it is going to have to stop this reckless money printing at some point or else the rest of the world will eventually decide to stop participating in it.
If the Fed wants to go ahead and make quantitative easing a permanent part of our system, then eventually it will need to go all the way and start monetizing all of our debt.
Right now, the Fed is stuck in the middle of a “no man’s land” where it is monetizing a significant amount of U.S. government debt but it is trying to sell everyone else on the idea that it is not really monetizing debt. This is a state of affairs that cannot go on indefinitely.
At some point, the Fed is going to have to make a decision. And for now the Fed seems to be married to the idea that eventually things will get back to “normal” and they will stop monetizing debt.
Even Janet Yellen is admitting that quantitative easing “cannot continue forever”.
However, she also said on Thursday that it is important not to end quantitative easing too rapidly, “especially when the recovery is still fragile“.
Well, at this point quantitative easing has been going on in one form or another for about five years now.
Will it ever end?
And when it does, how bad will the financial crash be?
Meanwhile, with each passing day the faith that the rest of the world has in our dollar and in our financial system continues to erode.
If the Fed continues to behave this recklessly, it is inevitable that the rest of the globe will begin to move even more rapidly away from the U.S. dollar and will become much more hesitant to lend us money.
Ultimately, the Federal Reserve is faced with only bad choices. The status quo is not sustainable, ending quantitative easing will cause the financial markets to crash, and going “all the way” with quantitative easing will just turn us into the Weimar Republic.
But anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that this debt-based financial system that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of was going to end tragically anyway. The 100 year anniversary of the Federal Reserve is coming up, and the truth is that it should have been abolished long ago.
The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are catching up with us, and this is all going to end very, very badly.
I hope that you are getting ready.
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.