The US Debt Default Nobody Wants — Except Us!

After recovering from a losing streak in the middle of last week, the Dow fell again on Friday – down 70 points.

What’s up?

Who knows? When Mr. Market wants to do something he doesn’t need a reason. He doesn’t ask permission. He doesn’t give any ‘forward guidance’. He just does what he wants.

But the reason all the commentators are talking about is the looming clash in Washington over the US debt ceiling.

We didn’t read about it in any detail; it seems trivial. But if Congress doesn’t get off its collective butt and pass another law the government will have to shut down. That’s because a previous law requires the Federal Reserve to stop borrowing when they reach a certain limit.

According to the Financial Times over the weekend: ‘Shutdown looms over budget‘.

As near as we can make out, everyone is in favour of seeing the feds continuing to spend money they don’t have. The fight is over what to spend it on. The Republicans want to stop spending on Obamacare. The Democrats want to spend on everything.

Unless they can agree, spending will stop on almost everything.

Here’s another headline: ‘The Default Nobody Wants‘.

That is surely incorrect. We would be delighted with a default. It’s precisely what should happen.

Congress spends more than it brings in by way of taxes. It has done this for years. In a rare moment of clarity, it saw the handwriting on the wall and vowed to stop. It set a limit on how much debt the government could take on. The Federal Reserve will reach that level soon. So the borrowing should stop.

We’d like to see it happen. Not so much for the financial health of the nation. We’d just like to see the looks on their faces – all those zombies suddenly cut off from fresh blood.

But wait. Who are we kidding? This is like a fat person who has decided to hold the line. He watches his weight inch up. He resolves to stop eating so much when he hits 250 lbs. He feels good about himself for having taken such resolute and forthright action. Now he has his weight under control, right? His wife should be proud of him.

Then he hits the magic number. ‘Oh, my…’ he says.

That evening the dessert is passed around. He begins to think: What’s so special about 250 lbs? Why not 260 lbs? Or 270 lbs?

He could not eat the dessert. But it’s his favourite chocolate cake. So, heck, he changes the resolution! He’ll eat the cake. But starting in the New Year, he will bring his weight down to under 250 lbs again.

Congress has the nation watching. Everybody wants a piece of chocolate cake!

The military-industrial complex Ike warned us about wants more planes, more drones, more tanks, more snoops, more contracts, more retirement benefits – in short, more money. So does the education industry. And the healthcare industry. And the poverty industry. And all the other industries that have put the government in their pocket.

And what about all the retirees? Haven’t they earned their Social Security? Don’t they have a right to Medicare?

Yes, everyone thinks he has a need…and a right…to a piece of cake.

So, what to do?

Pass another resolution!

Besides, the deficit is going down. There’s nothing more to worry about. As a percentage of GDP, it’s only 5.7%. That’s well down from the levels of 2009-10.

Wait a minute. What kind of flimflam is this? Colleague Simone Wapler points out that expressing debt as a percentage of GDP is nonsense. GDP is the income of the whole nation, not the income of government.

It would be like telling people that your excess spending was equal to only 2% of the income of the people on your block.

The US government doesn’t have everyone’s income to draw on for debt service. It only has its own tax revenues. Deficits only make sense in relation to the resources available to pay them. In the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the feds had record income of $2.4 trillion. But they spent $3.2 trillion…or one-third more. As a percentage of its own revenues, the US government deficit is running at 33%, NOT the 5% people are talking about.

The spectacle is vastly entertaining, provided you’re not hooked on the cake. That’s why the best place to watch this farce is from the sidelines…well away from the action. Out of stocks and bonds, that is.

But is there any real chance the feds will default?

Maybe they will do a symbolic default. One side – Democrats or Republicans – will try to gain some partisan advantage from it. But the system works by paying off zombies to retain political power. There is no way it will come to an honourable or voluntary end.

Instead, it will come to a bitter end – when the feds really do run out of money and are unable to get any more.

When will that happen?

Wish we knew. It could be many years in the future. For the moment, their credit is still good. And they have a willing central bank backing them up too.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

Join Markets and Money on Google+

From the Archives…

The Fed Does the Reverse Volcker and Targets the US Unemployment Rate
27-09-2013 – Greg Canavan

How Much Juice can Australian Property Have Left?
26-09-2013 – Greg Canavan

Nothing Lasts Forever…Especially Easy Money
25-09-2013 – Chris Mayer

The Unintended Consequences Brewing Thanks to the Federal Reserve
24-09-2013 – Greg Canavan

The Market’s Declining Response To ‘Open Mouth’ Operations
23-09-2013 – Dan Denning

Download Your FREE Report:

The Aussie Recession Survival Guide: how to protect your wealth in a fast-shrining economy
Markets & Money Free ReportIn this urgent investor report, Markets and Money editor Vern Gowdie shows you why Australia is poised to fall into its first ‘official’ recession in 25 years…

You’ll learn:

  • What Central Bank Rate-Slashers Don’t Want You to Know: Has the Reserve Bank’s rate-slashing obsession really helped stimulate the Australian economy? Or has the incredible amount of ‘cheap money’ up for grabs simply dug a deeper economic hole? You’ll find out in Vern’s report…
  • Revealed: Australia’s 25 Year ‘Bulletproof Economy’ Fraud: Politicians have long talked up Australia’s apparent economic strength. You’ve been told we haven’t seen negative growth since 1991. But is Australia’s 25-year economic ‘golden run’ true? Has our economy really grown non-stop for a quarter century? You’ll be shocked by Vern’s findings…
  • Australian Government’s $1 Trillion ‘Black Hole’: The Aussie government ‘borrowing spree’ pushed foreign debt up $2 trillion in the last 15 years. Net debt (the money we owe foreign countries) stands at $1 trillion. What does this debt ‘black hole’ mean for the economy, your livelihood and the future of your family? Vern paints a bleak picture…

To download your free report ‘The Aussie Recession Survival Guide: How to protect your wealth in a fast-shrinking economy’ simply subscribe to Markets and Money for FREE today. Enter your email in the box below and click ‘Send My Free Report’.

We will collect and handle your personal information in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities.

Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and MoneyDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

To have Bill's reckonings delivered straight to your inbox subscribe to Markets and Money for free here.

Read more

Bill Bonner

Latest posts by Bill Bonner (see all)

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar
wpDiscuz
Letters will be edited for clarity, punctuation, spelling and length. Abusive or off-topic comments will not be posted. We will not post all comments.
If you would prefer to email the editor, you can do so by sending an email to letters@marketsandmoney.com.au