Beyond the Cusp

December 15, 2017

Will America Explode First?

 

There has been any number of editorials commenting about the presumed unrest in the United States. They all, more often than not, have referred to the extreme anger and protest existing on social media. They assume that as social media was largely quiet during the Presidency of Barack Obama and has been very noisy since the election of Donald Trump as President that the United States public was more unified during the former and very distressed now. There have been those who point out that there is this old expression of the “silent majority” which was described as what awoke to elect President Reagan. This was presumed to explain that the “silent majority” actually is silent. There is some support to this as these are presumed to be the older people plus ones who are not as computer active as the ones now protesting so vehemently. After all, they are presumably silent, right? Still, how completely upside down and fouled does the world, and the United States in particular, have to be for Donald Trump to be elected to the Presidency? That has been one of the overriding questions which are somewhat more difficult to answer. Had the election gone the other direction, there would be people asking how far things must have gone awry and has become to elect Hillary Clinton. The other question is how crazy have things become that an avowed socialist and former Communist to almost win the Democrat primary elections. Well, how far gone have things become in the United States?

 

The first point that we believe shows that the political class has completely lost all connection with reality has been the debt. Things were viewed as having reached the verge to going off the rails when George W. Bush was elected President and the debt stood near five-trillion dollars. Eight short years later the debt had all but doubled pushing towards ten-trillion dollars. Then enter President Barack Obama and another short eight years later and the debt had almost doubled again approaching twenty-trillion dollars. Things actually went off the rails far earlier when the politicians decided that they could only afford to pay the interest on the debt and never pay down the debt. When under President Willian Jefferson Clinton with a Republican Congress managed to make a budget that on paper did not add to the deficit, the nation celebrated as if President Andrew Jackson completely paid off the debt which was celebrated on January 8, 1835. By the end of 1935, the debt had returned to between thirty to thirty-five billion dollars. Apparently, the debt had been eradicated for just a few weeks and then Congress returned to business as usual. Debt appears to be the norm and not the exception. Eventually, one of two things are going to happen, either there will be a Constitutional Convention called by the States to amend the Constitution placing a balanced budget amendment onto the Constitution with a stipulation that some percentage, ten sounds like a good number, of each budget must be applied to the principle of any existing debt until all debt is vanquished and to be reapplied instantly should new debt accrue. Anything short will lead to the worst possible option, default.

 

Eventually the interest on the debt will exceed the ability to allow paying the full amount and still running the government and meeting promised payments and allotments. Now it is possible to continue to pay the interest and all government expenses as long as there is somewhere for the United States to borrow the necessary amounts of money. This became a problem when China closed its loan office to the United States. This led to some creative financing. The Federal Reserve sold the United States the needed moneys while creating this money through bonds which it gave to the main lending banks. This method works just fine providing that these funds remain dormant in the lending banks. The problem comes when the economy becomes more active and there comes a demand for more loans and these funds begin to be utilized by the loaning banks. This is called giving the money velocity in economics. This leads to inflation as the money supply begins to increase, and in this case possibly rapidly. With inflation comes the problem of removing this excess currency from the monetary supply. There are two means for completing this task, taxes and interest rates. There are, needless to point out, ramifications to each of these means. Increasing interest rates makes the interest on the debt, which is refreshed through short-term loans on the debt, rise and eventually this leads to default or spiraling inflation. So raising interest rates is out of the question and explains why interest rates have been artificially kept so low. The other means is taxes and increasing taxes ends the economic activity and leads to less tax moneys being collected. This would also eventually lead to default or spiraling inflation. Any means used will, eventually, lead to default on the debt which will cause a loss in faith of the dollar. What would that cause?

 

A crisis in the dollar would have any number of consequences. First, and likely the most devastating, the world would all but immediately demand that some different or group of different monetary notes be used as the new reserve currency. If a group of currencies were chosen, there would be some form of complicated and intricate formula to determine what the rest of the world’s currencies would be worth. The other choice would be some mythical means for establishing exchange rates and the various values of currencies. The reason for these confusions and problems is easy to explain, gold is no longer the basis of any currency. As the dollar was the reserve currency when President Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard, he took the world off the gold standard and now currencies floated against the arbitrary value of the dollar. This is also why gold prices fluctuate against the dollar, though they actually do not gain or lose value. If you were to figure what a Ferrari would have cost in gold in 1971 and then figured the price of a Ferrari cost in gold today, the difference would be relatively negligible. That is why these claims that investing in precious metals, especially gold, will make you more wealthy in the future. It will not, you may receive more dollars, Federal Reserve Notes, but they will have very much the same purchasing power as the money you utilized to purchase the gold in the first place.

 

Tulipmania

Tulipmania

 

Would defaulting on the debt ruin the United States? Interestingly enough, such a default would allow the United States to get out of debt faster. The dollar would immediately lose much of its value and imported goods would become prohibitively more expensive. On the other hand, it would make American made goods extremely affordable to the rest of the world, except China who falsely set their currency tied to the dollar, so China would also become a pauper nation. This would allow the United States to become a prime location for manufacturing, as American labor prices would be lower than almost everywhere else where the ability of the work force is comparable. Made in America would become desirable once again not only for quality but also for affordability. Still, a default would be ruinous for American business initially and numerous companies, especially those manufacturing overseas, would find they were no longer able to be profitable and they would be replaced by new companies which would spring up almost overnight. The largest problem would be foreign corporations and billionaires could buy large shares of American companies which would provide the United States with the funding to climb out of the hole they would find themselves to have fallen. The real losers would be those people holding stocks and other investments which were in dollars as overnight they would become almost worthless compared to their value just a few days, possibly hours earlier. Such a default might lead to another stock market crash but the following dark days could be avoided providing that Congress was locked in political gridlock and unable to act. Financial bubbles burst and that makes room for new smaller bubbles to begin. That is the normal cycle for investing, especially if you are investing in tulips in the Netherlands from 1619 to 1622 when the bottom fell out when one person decided that tulips were not worth their price and everyone realized that mania had led them astray. Those left holding tulips had lousy investments but very pretty flowers to show for the insanity. On that flowery lesson, we will let the American mania continue and see when their crash comes or if they might be saved by some sagely leadership, whenever that is proven to be found. In the meantime, stay tuned for more fun and watch the crazed social media; it can be amusing as long as nobody gets hurt.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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