January 13, 2009

U.S.A. Headed for sovereign default; will happen this year

DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA SAVE YOUR TEARS FOR YOURSELF - While bankers do control the issuance of credit, they cannot control themselves. Bankers are the fatal flaw in their deviously opaque system that has substituted credit for money and debt for savings. The bankers have spread their credit-based system across the world by catering to basic human needs and ambition and greed; and while human needs can be satisfied, ambition and greed cannot—and the bankers' least of all.

I have a bad feeling about what's about to happen. The Great Depression is the closest that comes to mind. I, like most, was not alive during the 1930s when it happened. Nonetheless, what once was feared in private is now being discussed in public. It's going to be bad. It's going to make high school seem like fun.


This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises by University of Maryland‘s Carmen Reinhart and Harvard's Kenneth Rogoff makes for perfect reading when flying between the US and Argentina.

There is perhaps no better analysis than Reinhart and Rogoff's on the history of sovereign defaults; and, as such, Reinhart and Rogoff's paper was ideal reading material when traveling between the US and Argentina , for the sovereign defaults that happened in the past to Argentina will soon be happening to the US .

But a US default will make Argentina 's debt defaults pale both by comparison and consequence. The US , unlike Argentina , is the world's largest economy, the issuer of the world's reserve currency and the world's largest debtor—and a default by the US on its debt will shake the very foundations of our increasingly fragile global economy.


The power of ambition is extraordinary. The power of ambition transformed the US from the world's only creditor after WWII into the world's largest debtor in less than fifty years. Wanting to emulate England 's 19 th century empire in the 20 th , the US instead has mirrored England decline in the 20 th century here in the 21 st .

Credit and borrowing fueled America 's ambitions in the 20 th century as it had England 's in the 18 th and 19 th . During the 1980s, to pay for President Reagan expansion of the military, the US quadrupled its national debt in less than a decade by borrowing three trillion dollars during a presidency pledged to balance the budget.

When Reagan took office, US debt totaled one trillion dollars. When Reagan left office, US debt totaled four trillion dollars. Reagan's vaunted slogan of fiscal conservatism was just that—a slogan; and while talk is cheap, the debts now have to be repaid.

Just as the costs of WWI forced England to abandon the gold standard in the early 1900s, post WWII military spending forced the US to suspend the convertibility of the US dollar to gold in 1971; and the consequences, e.g. burgeoning trade deficits and global currency instability, are now putting unsustainable strains on a financial system already in extremis .

Ambition has its price and the bill is now due and owing. The question is: how will the US pay what it owes? In Hyman Minsky's Financial Instability Model, the US is close to “Ponzi status” if not already there since the US is having to roll its debt forward and borrow from others to pay the interest as it can no longer pay down the principle.

In 2006, in an article published by the St Louis Federal Reserve Bank, Professor Laurence Kotlikoff stated the US was “technically bankrupt” as there was no way the US could pay the $65.9 trillion it owed.

Evidently, Professor Kotlikoff was conservative in his estimate or we're going downhill faster than he knew. Just three months ago, on May 28, 2008 Richard W. Fisher, President and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank estimated the obligations of the US to be actually $99.2 trillion, 50 % higher than Kotlikoff's figures.

Fisher stated: In the distance, I see a frightful storm brewing in the form of untethered government debt . I choose the words—“frightful storm”—deliberately to avoid hyperbole. Unless we take steps to deal with it, the long-term fiscal situation of the federal government will be unimaginably more devastating to our economic prosperity than the subprime debacle and the recent debauching of credit markets that we are now working so hard to correct.

Fisher should know what the US owes and the danger that sum represents. As President and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, Fisher is a part of the Federal Reserve

System—the very system that has indebted America into perpetuity when its credit-based money forced out gold and silver based money in 1913.

But in his speech Fisher said nothing about the role the Federal Reserve has played in America 's fatal dance with debt, warning instead about the increasing costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

Fisher is part of a larger effort to now blame America 's entitlements as the primary cause of our problems, assiduously avoiding the role his own Federal Reserve Bank has played in sinking our once wealthy nation into perpetual indebtedness.

In truth, the entitlement program that poses the greatest threat to America is—and always has been—the Federal Reserve System. Without the Federal Reserve's credit-based money whose compounding interest (paid to the bankers) is obliged to be paid for by a possibly unconstitutional US income tax [note: the Federal Reserve Act and Federal Income Tax were both instituted the same year in 1913], the US would not be indebted and bankrupt as it is now.

If Ben Bernanke and Richard Fisher et. al. at the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank resigned and stopped plundering the US for their own benefit at the expense of the public in order to line the pockets of their banker friends with public funds, the US might have a chance of successfully getting out of this mess.

But, of course, they won't and the now privately controlled US government will continue to indebt the American public so insiders can continue to profit immensely at the public trough. But the question still remains, how will the US pay its unpayable debt? The answer is as clear as it is obvious. It won't because it can't.


In their well-researched paper, Serial Defaults and Its Remedies , Reinhart and Rogoff write “Cycles in capital flows to emerging markets have now been with us for two hundred years”. If we are to understand the dynamics of serial default, it would do us well to look at these cycles and their relevance to what is happening today.

Serial Defaults and Its Remedies, Section 2. Capital Flow Cycles and the Syndrome of “This Time Is Different” :

..a pattern of borrowing followed by crisis is evident in the string of defaults during 1826-28 in Latin America that come on the heels of the first wave of massive capital flows from Britain into Latin America in 1822-25…A second wave of capital flows from Britain came during the 1850s and 1860s. The cycle ended with the crisis of 1873. The next wave of capital flows into emerging markets coincided with the shift of the financial epicenter of the world from London to New York . Among Latin American countries, the borrowing binge of 1925-28 was [financed] with “cheap” money from New York . Capital flows peaked in 1928, the year before the U.S. Stock market crash ushered in financial and currency crises around the world and eventually an international debt crisis during 1929-33.

Argentina is at the very epicenter of Latin America borrowings and defaults and a cursory judgment may well lay the blame for such on Argentina . But understanding the past is akin to sedimentary sampling and a deeper reading of events reveals far more than the too familiar story of a spendthrift deadbeat nation borrowing more than prudence would otherwise dictate.

The capital flows from England and the US in the last two hundred years to Latin America were flows of credit, not money. The distinction is critical in understanding what has happened during the last two centuries. It explains the basis of the British Empire and current American power. It also explains the exploitation of Argentina .

The British Empire was founded on the central bank invention of credit-based money and the subsequent ability to substitute this new “money” for costly gold and silver; and the issuance of paper money allegedly backed by gold and silver is a critical component in the confidence game of central bankers to pass off their printed coupons as the real thing.

What the private bankers accomplished with the creation of the Bank of England was the government's “legitimization” of the bankers' new credit based coupons, sic paper money—coupons upon which the private bankers could now charge interest just as they had when loaning actual gold (what a wonderful scam). The new coupons were a lot easier to come by, especially when the king gave them a monopoly over its issuance.

The advantage to the king was that the king now had an unlimited supply of “money” that could be used to finance his wars—wars which led to the establishment of the British Empire; the cost of which was transferred directly as a burden to the people as the new counterfeit debt-based money was now an obligation of the state, not of the king.

This was the genesis (genius to the bankers and government) of the modern income tax where the people are forced to pay interest on the credit-based money issued by their own government. This was also the beginning of credit-based markets, deceptively called capitalism in order to closely identify the newly counterfeit credit based economy with the real money it had replaced.


The flow of credit from England and then from its surrogate successor, the US, to developing nations such as Argentina was but the flow of printed coupons designed to harness and indebt the wealth and productivity of new lands.

The “capital” was really only credit, thinly disguised debt in the form of paper money originally issued by central banks, the Bank of England in Britain and the Federal Reserve Bank in the US , the twin towers of monetary Mordor.

The wonderfully sounding idea of unfettered capitalism is but a smokescreen for bankers to leverage their coupons in the form of credit and thereby indebt and control the productivity and wealth of others. As such, it has accomplished its goal admirably but its success will now cost the bankers dearly.

Three centuries of indebting nations, businesses, and the citizenry with constantly compounding debt is no longer sustainable. This is why central bankers in London , New York , Paris , and Tokyo are in such distress. Debtors can no longer pay their debts, defaults are on the rise and bankers may actually have to find real jobs if their confidence game continues to disintegrate.


Lawrence Summers' credentials as a banker are impeccable. Educated at MIT and Harvard in economics, Summers has served as Chief Economist for the World Bank, US Secretary of the Treasury and President of Harvard University.

Recently, in March 2008, Summers stated:..we are facing the most serious combination of macroeconomic and financial stresses that the U.S. has faced in a generation--and possibly, much longer than that…It's a grave mistake to believe in the self-equilibrating properties of economies in the face of large shocks. Markets balance fear and greed. And when fear takes over, the capacity for self-stabilization is not one that can be relied upon.

On June 29, 2008 the Financial Times quoted Summers:... we are in an economic environment where we have more to fear than fear itself

Lawrence Summer's fears are not to be taken lightly. They are the banker's equivalent of Jim Cramer's televised fit of fear when interviewed on CNBC last year, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?

While Summers is rightfully fearful of the current economic environment, the rest of us have far more to fear from bankers like Lawrence Summers and others like him. Summer's role in the manipulation of the price of gold is found in his 1988 paper Gibson's Paradox and the Gold Standard co-authored with Robert Barsky, published in the Journal of Political Economy (vol. 96, June 1988, pp. 528-550).

The hubris of bankers such as Summers is stunning. Fixing the price of gold hoping to control interest rates and prices is like fixing the temperature of thermometers hoping to control global warming. Such is the short reach of Summers' considerable intellect.