What Is Going To Happen If Interest Rates Continue To Rise Rapidly?

Question MarkIf you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others.  The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system.  When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up.  When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in.  Just imagine someone squeezing a tube that has water flowing through it.  The higher interest rates go, the more economic activity will be squeezed.  If interest rates continue to rise rapidly, it will be more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money, it will be more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, the housing market may crash again, consumer debt will become more expensive, junk bond investors will be in for a world of hurt, the stock market will experience a tremendous amount of pain and there is a good chance that we could see the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble implode.  And that is just for starters.

So yes, we all need to be carefully watching the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  On Friday, it opened at 2.76% and hit a high of 2.86% before closing at 2.83%.  The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is up nearly 120 basis points since the beginning of May, and almost everyone on Wall Street seems convinced that it is going to go much higher.

We are truly moving into unprecedented territory, because we have been in a bull market for U.S. Treasuries for the last 30 years.  Many investors don’t even know that it is possible to lose money on U.S. Treasuries.  They have been described as “risk-free” investments, but that is far from the truth.

In fact, we could see bond investors of all types end up losing trillions of dollars before it is all said and done.

And those in the stock market will lose lots of money too.  Low interest rates are good for economic activity which is good for the stock market.  The chart posted below shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years…

CFPGH-DJIA-20

When interest rates rise, that is bad for economic activity and bad for stocks.  That is why so many stock analysts are alarmed that interest rates are going up so rapidly right now.

And as I wrote about the other day, we have just witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since before the last financial crisis.  The stock market already seems ripe for a huge “adjustment”, and rising interest rates could give it a huge extra push in a negative direction.

By the time it is all said and done, stock market investors could end up losing trillions of dollars in the next stock market crash.

In addition, rising interest rates could easily precipitate another housing crash.  As the Wall Street Journal discussed on Friday, as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up it will also cause mortgage rates to rise…

Higher yields will push up long-term borrowing cost for U.S. consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates will rise, and investors are keeping a close eye on whether this may derail the recovery of the housing market, which has shown signs of turning a corner this year.

In one of my previous articles, I included an example that shows just how powerful rising mortgage rates can be…

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.  The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.

Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.  8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.

If you own a $300,000 house today, do you think it will be easier to sell it or harder to sell it if mortgage rates skyrocket?

Yes, of course it will be much harder.  In fact, there is a good chance that you will have to reduce your selling price significantly so that prospective buyers can afford the payments.

Let us hope that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries levels off for a while.  If it says at this current level, the damage will probably not be too bad.

But if it crosses the 3 percent mark and keeps soaring, things could get messy pretty quickly.  In fact, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor survey, the 3.5 percent mark is when the collapse of the bond market is likely to become “disorderly”…

Our latest Credit Investor Survey, conducted July 8-11, showed that 3.5% on the 10-year is most commonly thought of as the trigger of a disorderly rotation – i.e. higher interest rates leading to outflows and wider credit spreads – among high grade investors.

Put differently, 3.0% on the 10-year will not lead to overall wider credit spreads if there is enough buying interest from institutional investors (though note that the 10s/30s spread curve would flatten further, as mutual fund/ETF holdings are concentrated in the belly of the curve, whereas institutional demand is disproportional in the long end of the curve). However, if the probability of a further move higher in interest rates to 3.5% is high – which will be the perception if interest rate volatility is high – certain institutional investors will choose to remain on the sidelines.

Thus there may not be enough institutional buying interest to mitigate retail fund outflows and contain overall high grade spread levels.

So what is causing this?

Well, there are a number of factors of course, but one very disturbing sign is that foreigners are selling off U.S. Treasuries at a pace that we have not seen since 2007…

One of the biggest fears in the financial markets is that foreign investors will stop buying U.S. Treasury securities, causing borrowing rates to surge.

Not that this is the beginning of a frightening trend, but new data from the Treasury Department shows that foreigners were net sellers in June. In fact, this is the largest net sale of U.S. securities since August 2007.

Do you remember all of the warnings that we have received over the years about what would take place when foreign countries started dumping U.S. debt?

Well, it looks like it may be starting to happen.

Unfortunately, there is no way that the party that the U.S. government has been throwing can continue without foreigners buying our debt.  We have added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt since the year 2000, and according to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff we are facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are in excess of 200 trillion dollars.

Even with foreigners continuing to loan us gigantic mountains of super cheap money, it would still take a doubling of our taxes to put us on a fiscally sustainable course…

Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”

This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.

Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation] would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.

“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”

Can you afford to pay twice as much in taxes to the federal government?

Very few Americans could.

But that is how serious the financial problems of the federal government are.

And all of the above assumes that interest payments on U.S. government debt will remain at current levels.  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

Also, all of the above assumes that we will have a healthy financial system that does not need to be bailed out again.

But if rapidly rising interest rates cause the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble to implode, the bailout that the “too big to fail” banks will need will likely be far, far larger than last time.

In fact, once that bubble bursts there probably will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

If the picture that I have painted above sounds bleak, that is because it is bleak.

Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I don’t feel I am communicating the tremendous danger that we are facing accurately enough.

We are heading for the worst financial crisis in modern human history, and the debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is going to go away and it is never going to come back.

You can dismiss that as “doom and gloom” and stick your head in the sand if you want, but that isn’t going to help anything.  Instead of ignoring reality you should be working hard to prepare your family for what is coming and warning others that they should be getting prepared too.

When a hurricane is approaching landfall, you don’t take your family out for a picnic at the beach.  That would be foolish.  Unfortunately, way too many Americans are acting as if nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 could ever possibly happen again.

If you deceive yourself into thinking that all of this is going to have a happy ending somehow, you are going to get blindsided by the coming storm.

But if you make preparations now, you might just be okay.

There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.

So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  The higher it goes, the later in the game we are.

The U.S. Government Will Borrow Close To 4 Trillion Dollars This Year

DebtWhen you add maturing debt to the new debt that the federal government is accumulating, the total is quite eye catching.  You see, the truth is that the U.S. government must not only borrow enough money to fund government spending for this year, it must also “roll over” existing debt that has reached maturity.  Of course the government never actually pays any of that debt off.  Instead, it essentially takes out new debts to cover the old ones.  So the U.S. government is actually borrowing far more money each year than most Americans realize.  For fiscal year 2013, the U.S. budget deficit will be about $845 billion, but on top of that the government will also have to borrow about 3 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is maturing.  Overall, the U.S. government will borrow close to 4 trillion dollars this year, and that number will likely be even higher next year.  That is not going to cause a crisis as long as interest rates stay super low, but if interest rates begin to rise substantially, the game will change dramatically.

When the government borrows money, it has to pay it back someday.  Back in the old days, the federal government used to issue lots of debt that would not mature for a very long time.  But in recent years things have been very different

In order to fund the government, the Treasury Department periodically auctions Treasury securities with various maturities ranging from 30-day Treasury bills to 30-year Treasury bonds, with 2-3-5-7-year and 10-year Treasury notes in between. It used to be that the bulk of Treasury borrowing was done in the longer-term instruments with maturities of at least 10 years.

In more recent years, however, this trend has shifted more toward shorter-term Treasury securities. There are pros and cons to both strategies. Generally speaking, the shorter maturities are considered more risky since short-term interest rates can vary frequently. Shorter-term maturities obviously have to be rolled over much more often. That raises the risk that there might not be enough buyers when the government needs them.

At this point, the average maturity of outstanding government debt is only 65 months, and only about 10 percent of all Treasury debt matures outside of a decade.

So what does that mean?

It means that the federal government must constantly roll over massive amounts of debt.  Once again, this is not too much of a problem as long as interest rates stay super low, but as John Cochrane pointed out, if rates start rising back to “normal” levels things could get quite hairy very quickly…

Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5 percent, i.e. back to normal, and the US has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion) – doubling already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation – which did not hit them, since they are on the Euro – can hit us.

Sadly, those running things appears to be quite clueless.  For example, retiring U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann recently asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke why the national debt has remained frozen in place for 56 straight days even though we have been borrowing lots of money.  Bernanke seemed to have no idea how to answer that question

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, Bachmann asked how there could be no increase reported in the total debt when the government is racking up about $4 billion a day in new debt.

“After nearly 10 years as the head of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke could not answer my question today in Financial Services Committee,” Bachmann told WND.

She wondered if there’s a political motive.

“I asked whether the Treasury Department was cooking the federal government’s books as it was reported that the Feds debt balance sheet remained at $16,699,396,000,000 for 56 days straight, presumably so the Treasury Department wouldn’t officially register that once again the Congress had exceeded its legal borrowing limits.”

For the moment, the federal government is able to recklessly borrow and spend money and investors are rewarding this behavior with super low interest rates.

Unfortunately, this state of affairs is completely and totally unsustainable.  At some point global financial markets will begin to behave rationally, and when that happens it is going to mean a tremendous amount of pain for the United States.

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt at a time when the U.S. economy has been steadily declining.  Anyone that thinks that we can continue to pile up more debt like this indefinitely does not know what they are talking about.

The following are some more statistics about the U.S. national debt for you to consider…

-Back in 1980, the U.S. national debt was less than one trillion dollars.  Today, it is rapidly approaching 17 trillion dollars.

During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.

The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

If you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.

If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer.  Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.

If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.

The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.

At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.

The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.

The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.

The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay.  Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”.  His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.

For the moment everything is fine because interest rates are incredibly low and the mockers in the “deficits don’t matter” fan club are having a field day.

But what is going to happen when interest rates return to rational levels?

How will the U.S. government be able to borrow the trillions of dollars that it needs to borrow every single year?

That is why it is so important to watch interest rates.  When they start skyrocketing, big trouble is ahead.

40 Stats That Prove The U.S. Economy Has Already Been Collapsing Over The Past Decade

40The “coming economic collapse” has already been happening.  You see, the truth is that the economic collapse is not a single event.  It has already started, it is happening right now, and it will accelerate during the years ahead.  The statistics in this article show very clearly that the U.S. economy has fallen dramatically over the past ten years or so.  Unfortunately, there are lots of mockers out there that love to mock the idea of an economic collapse even though one is happening right in front of our eyes.  They love to say stuff like this (and I am paraphrasing): “An economic collapse is never going to happen.  We can consume far more wealth than we produce forever.  We can pile up gigantic mountains of debt forever.  There is no way that the party is over.  In fact, the party is just getting started.  Woo-hoo!”  That sounds absolutely ridiculous, but “economists” and “journalists” actually write things that reflect these kinds of sentiments every single day.  They do not seem alarmed about the fact that our national debt is nearly 17 times larger than it was 30 years ago.  They do not seem alarmed about the fact that the total amount of debt in our country is more than 28 times larger than it was 40 years ago.  They do not seem alarmed about the fact that our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted and we are steadily becoming poorer as a nation.  They just think that the magic formula of print, borrow, spend and consume can go on indefinitely.  Unfortunately, the truth is that a massive economic disaster has already started to unfold.  We inherited the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, but we totally wrecked it.  We have been able to live far, far beyond our means for the last couple of decades thanks to the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet, but now that debt bubble is getting ready to burst.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.  Just open your eyes and look at the facts.  The following are 40 stats that prove the U.S. economy has already been collapsing over the past decade…

#1 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001.  That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.

#2 The United States was once ranked #1 in the world in GDP per capita.  Today we have slipped to #14.

#3 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

#4 Since the year 2000, the size of the U.S. national debt has grown by more than 11 trillion dollars.

#5 Back in the year 2000, our trade deficit with China was 83 billion dollars.  Last year, it was 315 billion dollars.

#6 In the year 2000, about 17 million Americans were employed in manufacturing.  Today, only about 12 million Americans are employed in manufacturing.

#7 The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

#8 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#9 Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.

#10 Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Today, China’s high-tech exports are more than twice the size of U.S. high-tech exports.

#11 In 2002, the United States had a trade deficit in “advanced technology products” of $16 billion with the rest of the world.  In 2010, that number skyrocketed to $82 billion.

#12 The United States has lost more than a quarter of all of its high-tech manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#13 The number of full-time workers in the United States is nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

#14 The average duration of unemployment in the United States is nearly three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.

#15 Throughout the year 2000, more than 64 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.7 percent of all working age Americans have a job.

#16 The official unemployment rate has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row.  That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.

#17 The U.S. government says that the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by 17.9 million between 2000 and 2011.  During the entire decade of the 1980s, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by only 1.7 million.

#18 The average number of hours worked per employed person per year has fallen by about 100 since the year 2000.

#19 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#20 The U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the recent recession.

#21 The percentage of Americans that are self-employed has steadily declined over the past decade and is now at an all-time low.

#22 According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

#23 In the year 2000, there were only 17 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.

#24 In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent.  Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.

#25 Since Barack Obama entered the White House, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen from $1.85 to $3.64.

#26 More than twice as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as will be sold in 2013.

#27 Right now there are 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#28 The price of ground beef increased by 61 percent between 2002 and 2012.

#29 According to USA Today, water bills have actually tripled over the past 12 years in some areas of the country.

#30 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#31 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four years in a row.

#32 As I mentioned recently, the homeownership rate in America is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.

#33 Back in the year 2000, the mortgage delinquency rate was about 2 percent.  Today, it is nearly 10 percent.

#34 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

#35 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”.  Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.

#36 According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of families in the United States declined “from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010“.

#37 According to the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.

#38 Medicare spending increased by 138 percent between 1999 and 2010.

#39 During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.

#40 Today, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

Are there any other items that you would add to this list?  Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

Crushed Car By UCFFool

Farewell Bernanke – Thanks For Inflating The Biggest Bond Bubble The World Has Ever Seen

Barack Obama And Ben BernankeFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time.  During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows.  This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt.  During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows.  All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal?  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that.  In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else.  What will that do to home sales and car sales?  And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession.  We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up.  We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that.  The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.

This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that.  Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.

So who would replace him?  Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion.  She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy.  It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.

But is it a fundamentally sound path?  Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point.  In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…

“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.

“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”

Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades.  This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply.  This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…

Interest Rate On 10 Year U.S. Treasuries

So what will that “adjustment” look like?

The following analysis is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!

And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…

Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!

Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!

In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.

If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.

And we have seen this pattern before.

As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…

As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.

As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.

So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead.  If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.

And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point.  He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.

The Federal Reserve Shows Barack Obama Who The Real Boss Is

The Federal Reserve Shows Barack Obama Who The Real Boss IsBarack Obama has greatly expanded the powers of the presidency during his time in the White House, but there is one institution that he simply will not mess with.  There is one organization that is considered to be so sacred in Washington D.C. that Obama will not dare utter a single negative word against it.  That organization is the Federal Reserve.  Even though he has shown that he is unafraid to pick a fight with just about everyone else in Washington, Obama flat out refuses to criticize the Fed and he even reappointed Ben Bernanke for another term as Fed Chairman even though Bernanke has a track record of failure that would make the Chicago Cubs look good.  Perhaps Obama is aware of what has happened to other presidents that have chosen to tangle with the Fed.  In any event, it has become clear that Obama submits to anything that the Fed says without question, and the controversy over the “trillion dollar coin” is another perfect example of this.  For weeks, there has been much speculation in the mainstream media about the possibility that the Obama administration may print up a one trillion dollar coin that it would use to keep paying the bills of the federal government if an agreement to raise the debt ceiling is not reached.  But on Saturday the Federal Reserve killed that idea, and we shouldn’t be surprised by that because under no circumstances will the Fed ever accept a threat to their monopoly over money creation in the United States.  If the Federal Reserve had allowed Obama to print up a debt-free trillion dollar coin, that would have set a very dangerous precedent for the Fed.  The American people would have realized that the federal government can actually create debt-free money whenever it wants and that it does not actually have to borrow money from anyone.  That is something that the Fed probably would have moved heaven and earth to keep from happening.  But now we won’t ever know how far the Fed would really be willing to go to keep their monopoly over money creation, because Obama has no plans to challenge this latest ruling from “the real boss” of our financial system.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize that a private banking cartel has a monopoly over all money creation in this country.  In recent years they have abused this power by wildly printing money (“quantitative easing“), and by making more than 16 trillion dollars in secret loans to their friends during the last financial crisis.  Under our system, the private Federal Reserve creates money whenever they want, and nobody else gets to create money.  It is an insane system, but very, very few of our politicians will ever dare to question it.

At this point, the U.S. Treasury Department is essentially just an arm of the Federal Reserve.  That is why it was no surprise that the Fed and the Treasury Department issued a joint statement on Saturday.  According to Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley, both the Treasury and the Fed have come to the conclusion that under no circumstances should a trillion dollar coin be printed up by the Obama administration…

“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit”

But of course it was actually the Federal Reserve which made this decision.  The following is from a report posted by Zeke Miller of Buzzfeed.com

The Federal Reserve was responsible for killing a controversial proposal to circumvent the debt limit, a senior administration official told BuzzFeed Sunday.

On Saturday the Treasury Department released a statement ruling out the only remaining alternative to Congress raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which would utilize a loophole in federal law to mint a $1 trillion coin to be deposited in the Federal Reserve and ensure the federal government could pay all bills and debt obligations.

According to that Buzzfeed article, the Federal Reserve would have actually refused to recognize the trillion dollar coin if the Obama administration had tried to deposit it with the Fed…

But it was the Federal Reserve that killed the proposal, the official told BuzzFeed, denying a purely political rationale for the announcement, saying the independent central bank would not have credited the Treasury’s accounts for the vast sum for depositing the coin.

Wow.

So there you go.

The real boss has told Barack Obama how it is going to be, and Obama plans to meekly comply.

So why is the Federal Reserve so adamant about maintaining their monopoly over money creation?

Well, it is all about compound interest.  Albert Einstein once made the following statement about compound interest…

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

When the Federal Reserve system was initially created back in 1913, the bankers that created it intended for it to be a perpetual debt machine that would extract massive amounts of wealth from the U.S. government (and ultimately from all of us) through the mechanism of compound interest.  Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars of interest are transferred into the pockets of the wealthy bankers and foreign nations that own our debt.  This is one of the reasons why I preach about the evils of government debt until I am blue in the face.  The debt-based Federal Reserve system is a way to systematically steal the wealth of the United States, and it is happening right in front of our eyes, but very few people actually understand it well enough to complain about it.

Unfortunately, we are rapidly getting to the point where we have accumulated so much debt that it is threatening to collapse our entire financial system.  The following comes from a recent Zero Hedge article

By now most are aware of the various metrics exposing the unsustainability of US debt (which at 103% of GDP, it is well above the Reinhart-Rogoff “viability” threshold of 80%; and where a return to just 5% in blended interest means total debt/GDP would double in under a decade all else equal simply thanks to the “magic” of compounding), although there is one that captures perhaps best of all the sad predicament the US self-funding state (where debt is used to fund nearly half of total US spending) finds itself in. It comes from Zhang Monan, researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform: “The US government is now trying to repay old debt by borrowing more; in 2010, average annual debt creation (including debt refinance) moved above $4 trillion, or almost one-quarter of GDP, compared to the pre-crisis average of 8.7% of GDP.

This is a key statistic most forget when they discuss the stock and flow of US debt: because whereas the total US deficit, and thus net debt issuance, is about $1 trillion per year, one has to factor that there is between $3 and $4 trillion in maturities each year, which have to be offset by a matched amount of gross issuance just to keep the stock of debt flat (pre deficit funding). The assumption is that demand for this gross issuance will always exist as old maturities are rolled into new debt, however, this assumption is contingent on one very key variable: interest rates not rising.

Do you understand what is being said there?

Not only is our debt rising by more than a trillion dollars a year, we also need to roll over trillions of dollars of federal debt each year.  If interest rates on that debt start rising, we are going to start feeling the pain very rapidly.

As I have mentioned previously, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 6.638 percent back in 2000.  If we returned to that level today, we would be paying more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

The main thing keeping interest rates low right now is the fact that the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the world.  If that ends, interest rates on U.S. debt will skyrocket.  The following is from a recent article by Chris Ferreira

The US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. You need it to buy oil, a vital component of any economy. Since other countries like China cannot print US dollars at their leisure, they have to get it from somewhere. They get it from trade with the US. The US buys products in Asia and the rest of the world with US dollars, and in turn these same dollar surpluses are used to buy oil and US bonds, creating a much needed artificial demand for US dollars.

This is also how the enormous US 558$ billion trade deficit in 2011 was financed. The US has been in a trade deficit since the 1980′s and it continues the grow as jobs and manufacturing are being lost to more competitive nations. The trade deficit also accounts for the national debt. The financing of the debt creates artificial demand for US bonds which helps lower the interest rate and coincidentally helps to raise the debt levels even higher.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world is starting to move away from the U.S. dollar.  Over the past couple of years, a whole host of international currency agreements have been signed that are intended to start reducing the use of the U.S. dollar in international trade.  For much more on this, please see the following article: “The Giant Currency Superstorm That Is Coming To The Shores Of America When The Dollar Dies“.

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how very close we are to financial catastrophe.  The only way we can continue to service our enormous 16 trillion dollar debt is for interest rates on that debt to remain super low.  But the only way those interest rates can remain low is for the U.S. dollar to remain absolutely dominant in international trade.  Once the rest of the world rejects the U.S. dollar, the game is over.

We are headed for total system meltdown, but neither major political party is going to do a thing about it.  They are both just going to continue to meekly comply with the dictates of the real boss of our financial system – the Federal Reserve.

It is imperative that we educate the American people about these things.  Please share this article with as many people as you can, and the following is another great article for anyone that does not understand how the Federal Reserve is destroying our financial system: “10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve“.

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by Ipankonin

If Obama Can Just Create A Trillion Dollar Coin, Then Why Do We Have To Pay Taxes?

If Obama Can Just Create A Trillion Dollar Coin, Then Why Do We Have To Pay TaxesIf Barack Obama can “solve” the debt ceiling crisis by printing up some trillion dollar coins, then why does the federal government need our money?  As another debt ceiling showdown approaches, many in the liberal media are suggesting that if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling that Obama should just have the U.S. Treasury create a trillion dollar platinum coin and use it to pay our bills.  It sounds crazy, but many notable voices (including Paul Krugman of the New York Times) are supporting this idea.  But if the federal government has had the power to create trillion dollar coins out of thin air all this time, then why do we have to pay taxes?  Not only that, why do we have a national debt?  If the federal government can just create money whenever it wants, then why does the federal government ever have to borrow it from others?  The U.S. Constitution actually grants Congress the power to “coin money”, so why is the Federal Reserve doing it?  Those are some very important questions.  Most Americans don’t even realize that the U.S. government never actually needed to borrow a single penny from anyone else.  The U.S. Congress has the authority to create debt-free money whenever it wants to.  Conceivably, the entire federal government could be funded without ever borrowing a single dollar and without ever receiving a single dollar from any of us in taxes.  Just imagine that – a nation without a single penny of national debt, no income tax and no IRS.  What a wonderful world that would be.  Of course there would be other potential dangers under such a system (such as runaway inflation), and those dangers would have to be addressed.  But the truth is that we don’t have to have an income tax or 16 trillion dollars of government debt.  We only have those things because we have chosen to have those things.

Sometimes, a crisis can illuminate options that most people had not considered previously.  As another debt ceiling crisis draws closer, many are looking for ways for the U.S. government to be able to continue to pay its bills if Congress does not authorize an increase in the debt ceiling.

If a debt ceiling agreement is not worked out, the U.S. government will soon only be able to pay about half the bills that are coming due after interest payments on the national debt (which will almost certainly be prioritized) are made.

That is why a lot of people on the left are pushing the “trillion dollar coin” alternative.  So how would this work exactly?  The mechanics were recently explained by Jim Pethokoukis on his American Enterprise Institute blog

There are limits on how much paper money the U.S. can circulate and rules that govern coinage on gold, silver, and copper.  BUT, the Treasury has broad discretion on coins made from platinum.  The theory goes that the U.S. Mint would create a handful of trillion dollar (or more) platinum coins.  The President would then order the coins deposited at the Fed, who would then put the coin(s) in the Treasury who now can pay all their bills and a default is removed from the equation.  The effects on the currency market and inflation are unclear, to say the least.

In my opinion, if anyone in the federal government is going to be creating money out of thin air, it should be the U.S. Congress.  After all, according to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, it is the U.S. Congress that has been granted the authority to “coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”.

But those that are pushing Obama to create a “trillion dollar coin” point to a law that Congress passed that allows the U.S. Treasury to mint platinum coins.  The following is from a recent CNN article

Normally, the Federal Reserve is charged with issuing currency. But U.S. law, specifically 31 USC § 5112, also grants Treasury permission to “mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins.”

This section of law was meant to allow for the printing of commemorative coins and the like. But the Treasury Secretary has the authority to mint these coins in any denomination he or she sees fit.

But it wouldn’t quite be that easy.  According to a recent ABC News article, some elements of the coin design would have to be determined by legislation…

The more difficult part comes sometime after the decision is made to coin the platinum and before the Mint gets to work in sculpting the pieces.

At that point, the American people must decide whose face will adorn the trillion dollar trinket. The process to determine the “specs” of the coin, U.S. Mint Public Affairs Specialist Genevieve Billia warns, must be “determined by legislation,” creating the potential for another congressional impasse.

So we would likely end up back at square one.

But if printing up a “trillion dollar coin” does not work out, Paul Krugman of the New York Times has come up with another option

Don’t like the platinum coin option? Here’s a functionally equivalent alternative: have the Treasury sell pieces of paper labeled “moral obligation coupons”, which declare the intention of the government to redeem these coupons at face value in one year.

It should be clearly stated on the coupons that the government has no, repeat no, legal obligation to pay anything at all; you see, they’re not debt, and therefore don’t count against the debt limit. But that shouldn’t keep them from having substantial market value.

Of course there is a very, very low probability that any of these wild ideas will ever be tried, but this debate has raised some very interesting points.

The truth is that we do not have to have a system where more money is only created when more debt is created.  We could have a system where the federal government directly creates debt-free money that is spent directly into circulation by the federal government.

In fact, this has happened before.

As I have written about previously, during the presidency of JFK a limited number of debt-free United States Notes were issued by the U.S. Treasury and spent by the U.S. government directly into circulation without any new debt being created.  In fact, each bill said “United States Note” right at the top.

Unfortunately, after JFK’s presidency no more debt-free United States Notes were ever issued.

But even before JFK, there were times when debt-free United States Notes were being used.  According to Wikipedia, United States Notes were first used during the Civil War….

They were originally issued directly into circulation by the U.S. Treasury to pay expenses incurred by the Union during the American Civil War. Over the next century, the legislation governing these notes was modified many times and numerous versions have been issued by the Treasury.

So why are we using debt-based Federal Reserve Notes today instead of debt-free United States Notes?

If the Federal Reserve did not exist and the U.S. government directly created money instead of borrowing it, it is conceivable that we could have a national debt of $0.00 today instead of $16,432,707,263,449.56.

Which option do you think our children and our grandchildren will wish that we had opted for?

In a system where the government directly created money, it is also conceivable that we could completely do away with the income tax and the IRS completely.  The U.S. once prospered greatly without an income tax, and it could do so again.

And the truth is that our system of taxation is broken beyond repair.  If you doubt this, just read this article.

So what would the downside be to such a system?  Well, of course rampant inflation would be a huge danger.  Allowing Congress to print up money whenever they wanted to would be playing with fire.  That is why it would be imperative for there to be a hard cap on what the federal government could spend.  For example, you could set the cap on spending by the federal government at 20 percent of GDP.  That way we would hopefully never end up looking like the Weimar Republic.

And the current federal debt could be paid down a little at a time using newly created debt-free currency.  This would have to be done slowly to keep inflation under control, but it could be done.

Of course if you wanted to continue to fund the federal government through taxation, there are other options that would still allow you to do away with the income tax.  For example, one of the ways that our founders intended for the federal government to be funded was through tariffs, and we could definitely raise a lot of money that way.  Plus, that would have the added benefit of making American companies much more competitive again and it would reduce the flow of American jobs out of the country.

So am I in favor of having Barack Obama create a trillion dollar coin to get around the debt ceiling crisis?

Most definitely not.  If it does not violate the letter of the Constitution (which I believe it does), it sure does violate the spirit of it.

But if the U.S. Congress decided to shut down the Federal Reserve and the IRS and they decided to abolish the income tax, and instead they started directly issuing debt-free currency directly into circulation, that is something I would very much be in favor of.

Yes, that system would not be perfect either, but it would be far more preferable to what we have today.

So what do you think?  Should we keep our current system of debt-based money, or would a system of debt-free money be better?

Please feel free to post a comment with your opinion below…

Trillion Dollar Coin?

The Giant Currency Superstorm That Is Coming To The Shores Of America When The Dollar Dies

By recklessly printing, borrowing and spending money, our authorities are absolutely shredding confidence in the U.S. dollar.  The rest of the world is watching this nonsense, and at some point they are going to give up on the U.S. dollar and throw their hands up in the air.  When that happens, it is going to be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.  Right now, we export a lot of our inflation.  Each year, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us, and so the rest of the world ends up with giant piles of U.S. dollars.  This works out pretty well for them, because the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the world and is used in international trade far more than any other currency is.  Back in 1999, the percentage of foreign exchange reserves in U.S. dollars peaked at 71 percent, and since then it has slid back to 62.2 percent.  But that is still an overwhelming amount.  We can print, borrow and spend like crazy because the rest of the world is there to soak up our excess dollars because they need them to trade with one another.  But what will happen someday if the rest of the world decides to reject the U.S. dollar?  At that point we would see a tsunami of U.S. dollars come flooding back to this country.  Just take a moment and think of the worst superstorm that you can possibly imagine, and then replace every drop of rain with a dollar bill.  The giant currency superstorm that will eventually hit this nation will be far worse than that.

Most Americans don’t realize that there are far more dollars in use in the rest of the world than in the United States itself.  The following is from a scholarly article by Linda Goldberg

The dollar is a major form of cash currency around the world. The majority of dollar banknotes are estimated to be held outside the US. More than 70% of hundred-dollar notes and nearly 60% of twenty- and fifty-dollar notes are held abroad, while two-thirds of all US banknotes have been in circulation outside the country since 1990

For decades we have been exporting gigantic quantities of our currency.

So what would happen if that process suddenly reversed and massive piles of dollars started coming back into the country?

It is frightening to think about.

Well, I guess the key is to get the rest of the world to continue to have confidence in the U.S. dollar so that will never happen, right?

Unfortunately, there are lots of signs that the rest of the world is accelerating their move away from the U.S. dollar.

For example, it was recently announced that the BRICS countries are developing their own version of the World Bank

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc has begun planning its own development bank and a new bailout fund which would be created by pooling together an estimated $240 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to diplomatic sources. To get a sense of how significant the proposed fund would be, the fund would be larger than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 150 countries, according to Russia and India Report.

And as I noted in a previous article, over the past few years there have been a whole host of new international currency agreements that encourage the use of national currencies over the U.S. dollar.  The following are just a few examples…

1. China and Germany (See Here)

2. China and Russia (See Here)

3. China and Brazil (See Here)

4. China and Australia (See Here)

5. China and Japan (See Here)

6. India and Japan (See Here)

7. Iran and Russia (See Here)

8. China and Chile (See Here)

9. China and the United Arab Emirates (See Here)

10. China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (See Here)

Will this movement soon become a stampede away from the U.S. dollar?

That is a very important question.

But you don’t hear anything about this in the U.S. media and our politicians are not talking about this at all.

Meanwhile, our “leaders” seem to be doing everything that they can to destroy confidence in the U.S. dollar.  The Federal Reserve is printing money like there is no tomorrow, and the federal government continues to run up trillion dollar deficits year after year.

They do not seem to understand that they are systematically destroying the U.S. financial system.

Other world leaders get it.  For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin once said the following…

“Unreasonable expansion of the budget deficit, accumulation of the national debt – are as destructive as an adventurous stock market game.
During the time of the Soviet Union the role of the state in economy was made absolute, which eventually lead to the total non-competitiveness of the economy. That lesson cost us very dearly. I am sure no one would want history to repeat itself.”

Wow.

Why can’t most of our politicians see how destructive debt is?

What the federal government continues to do is absolutely insane.  The national debt increased by more than 24 billion dollars on the day after Thanksgiving this year.  But utter disaster has not struck yet, and most Americans are not really that concerned about the debt.  So things just keep rolling along.

And of course our national debt of $16,309,738,056,362.44 is nothing when compared to the future liabilities that our federal government is facing.  Just check out what a recent article in the Wall Street Journal had to say about all this…

The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.

Other economists paint an even gloomier picture.  According to economist Niall Ferguson, the U.S. government is facing future unfunded liabilities of 238 trillion dollars.

So where are we going to get all that money?

Well, why don’t we just print more money than ever before so that the U.S. government can borrow and spend more money than ever before?

Don’t laugh.  That is actually what some of the top economists in the country are actually recommending.

The most famous economic journalist in the entire country, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, is boldly proclaiming that the solution to all of our problems is to print, borrow and spend a lot more money.  He insists that there is no reason to fear that the giant mountain of debt that we are accumulating will someday collapse the system…

For we have our own currency — and almost all of our debt, both private and public, is denominated in dollars. So our government, unlike the Greek government, literally can’t run out of money. After all, it can print the stuff. So there’s almost no risk that America will default on its debt — I’d say no risk at all if it weren’t for the possibility that Republicans would once again try to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling.

But if the U.S. government prints money to pay its bills, won’t that lead to inflation? No, not if the economy is still depressed.

Now, it’s true that investors might start to expect higher inflation some years down the road. They might also push down the value of the dollar. Both of these things, however, would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy right now: expected inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make our exports more competitive.

Of course what he is prescribing is complete and utter madness.

At some point this con game is going to collapse and the rest of the world is going to say a big, fat, resounding “NO” to the U.S. dollar.

Why should they continue to use a currency that is becoming extremely unstable and that is constantly being manipulated?

And when the rest of the world rejects the U.S. dollar, the value of the dollar will drop like a rock because there will be far less global demand for it.

In addition, if the rest of the world is not using the U.S. dollar for trade any longer, other nations will cease to soak up our excess currency and huge mountains of our currency that are floating around out there will start flooding back to our shores.

At that point we will be looking at inflation unlike anything we have ever seen before.  The era of cheap imports will be over and we will pay far more for everything from oil to the foreign-made plastic trinkets that we buy at Wal-Mart.

Most Americans don’t even know what a “reserve currency” is, but when the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status it is going to unleash a nightmare that most economists cannot even imagine.

So enjoy this holiday season while you can.  There are still lots and lots of cheap imports filling the shelves of our stores.

Once the coming giant currency superstorm strikes, we will dearly wish for the good old days of 2012.

Yes, the U.S. dollar is alive and ticking for now.  But at the pace that our authorities are abusing it, I would not say that things are looking good for a long and healthy lifespan.

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