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Bubblemania: Part III, Debt Cemetery

Articles & Blogs - US Commentary

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In Part II, I discussed a few of the asset-bubbles in the U.S. economy, which, due to the epidemic of “bubble blindness” in the U.S. are “invisible” to almost all American writers. I also pointed out that the United States is the “home” of most of the world’s largest “debt bubbles” as well. I will now cover that part of the discussion in this installment.

Recall the definition of an “asset bubble” from Part I: a seriously over-valued market where there is large amounts of leveraged-debt present. As I explained previously, both ingredients are necessary in order to produce the characteristic “pop” when a bubble bursts – leading to an implosion of debt in that market, which turns an orderly retreat in prices into a “crash”.

Given that definition, arguably any and every pool of unsecured debt is a “debt bubble”, since any large amount of unsecured debt could potentially implode. However, a normal debt scenario implies that debt is being accumulated gradually – and that the inability to service such debt is also a gradual process.

This is not the case with the U.S. economy, and more particularly, with the U.S. government. In the case of the U.S. government, not only has it been recklessly amassing “unfunded liabilities”, but it has plundered $5 trillion of government “trust funds”, which (once) “backed” a portion of these gigantic liabilities.

In other words, while U.S. government obligations for its extremely bloated “entitlement programs” are increasing exponentially rather than arithmetically, the U.S. government has been hollowing-out this “debt bubble” by stealing the money which was supposed to pay for these entitlements. Like a hoard of termites devouring the foundation of a house, the U.S.’s political parasites have eaten-away the U.S.’s fiscal foundation.

This not only ensures the bankruptcy of the U.S. government, but it creates an ugly, “future shock” scenario, where tens of millions of Americans who are totally relying upon these programs to maintain their standard of living in their old-age will, at best, get paid-out pennies on the dollar versus what they were promised by the U.S. government.

Lest we feel any misguided “pity” for this “baby-boomer” generation, not only did this generation demand far more government services than they were ever willing to pay for (which created these “unfunded liabilities”), but they are the ones who elected one group of thieves/liars after another (who are responsible for all these problems). The people who deserve our pity are the children and grand-children of the baby-boomers: not only are the mountains of unpaid, baby-boomer “bills” being heaped atop their shoulders, but the “social programs” which these children and grand-children are paying into will have ceased to exist long before they could ever collect a penny.

The U.S. government’s most-recent estimate of its own “unfunded liabilities” was about $70 trillion. Given that this amount bounces around (due to economic fluctuations), and given that this huge sum greatly exceeds global GDP, the precise number is almost irrelevant. The U.S. government is not only totally broke, but already burdened with a national debt which it is only capable of servicing by keeping interest rates frozen at 0%, and through “buying” most of its own debt (i.e. “monetizing debt”). It can’t pay for one penny of these entitlements, let alone $70 trillion.

The only way that the U.S. can/could make payments to the beneficiaries of these programs is through hyperinflationary money-printing: printing trillions and trillions of dollars “out of thin air”. Given that such hyperinflation must take the value of the U.S. dollar down to near-zero, it becomes virtually irrelevant whether the nominal amount of these “benefits” is $1 trillion or $70 trillion, since the real-dollar value of these “entitlements” will be near-zero.

Part of this $70 trillion debt-bubble is “Social Security” obligations. In the case of this social program, it is quite easy to understand the repercussions of beneficiaries only receiving pennies on the dollar: regardless of the nominal amount of the “benefit”, its real-dollar value will be almost nothing.

This issue of “unfunded entitlements” is much more disturbing when we consider the vast majority of this funding-gap: health-care entitlements. When someone is ill, you can’t simply say “well, since we can only afford 1% of the spending, you’ll have to make-do with 1% of the cure.”

For millions of Americans, having 1% or 2% of the health-care “coverage” which they thought they would have is essentially no medical coverage, at all. Forgetting about the financial component of “quality of life”, millions of these baby-boomers will see their quality of life destroyed by (untreated) health problems – and those are the “lucky ones”. The “unlucky ones” will simply drop-dead, prematurely.

While this one debt-bubble of unfunded liabilities is certain to bankrupt the U.S. government, it is far from being the only debt-bubble in the U.S. economy. To begin with, U.S. state and local governments have been copying the federal government: creating their own mountains of unfunded liabilities.

Even though these state/local debt-bubbles are proportionately smaller than the federal debt-bubble, they are arguably “worse” – because state and local governments don’t have their own printing presses (even though some state Governors are already acting like they have one). Again, these two levels of government are totally broke, and up-to-their-eyeballs in debt. This means that for the “beneficiaries” of unfunded, state and local social programs, with the exception of the minority at the “front of the line”, “unfunded” means zero benefits.

It is also important to remember that much of the $5 trillion stolen from U.S. government “trust funds” was plundered during years when the U.S. government was bragging about the “strength” of the U.S. economy. In other words, this wasn’t the case of “well-meaning” politicians being “forced” to encroach upon these funds due to “unforeseen crises” or “economic slumps”.

Instead, the vast majority of squandered, trust-fund money was thrown away, simply so that whatever Democrat or Republican was in charge of the White House could pretend that U.S. “official deficits” were trillions of dollar less than what these politicians publicly claimed. Simply, they stole money in order to be able to successfully lie about the U.S.’s finances (temporarily). Meanwhile, the other half of the two-party dictatorship would cover-up this stealing (and lying), by never alerting the American people to what was (and is) taking place.

These “leaders” have literally run the entire U.S. economy as a “Ponzi-scheme”. The ring-leaders of the Ponzi-scheme (the Wall Street Oligarchs) have not only been stealing government revenues as fast as they are received, but have ordered their political servants to incur trillions in new debt – so they could steal even more.

Demographically, the “little people” (80% of all Americans) now only hold a tiny, 15% of all U.S. wealth. At the other end, the “filthy rich” (the top-1% of all Americans) hold roughly 40% of all wealth. Let me quantify those numbers a little more – to make sure they sink-in.

Approximately 300,000 Americans hold 40% of all U.S. wealth, while 250 million Americans must divide-up only 15% of the wealth. Put another way, each member of the filthy rich holds more than 0.000001% of all U.S. wealth. That may look like a small number, until you compare it to the “share” of wealth held by the “little people” (250 million Americans). Each one of them holds a microscopic 0.0000000006%.

Stacking-up the numbers side-by-side, we see that the 300,000 “filthy rich” (on average) now have approximately 1,700 times as much wealth as the 250 million “little people”. Now that is a well-run Ponzi-scheme! However, there are still many more U.S. debt-bubbles to discuss, so I must move on.

There is an obvious debt-bubble in U.S. commercial real estate. The value of U.S. commercial real estate (of what was once a $6 trillion market) has already plummeted by 30% (with much more “plummeting” to come). Meanwhile in the fantasy-world of U.S. debt-markets, “extend and pretend” is still the operative phrase.

For those who aren’t familiar with yet another U.S. dead-beat colloquialism, “extend and pretend” is where (for the last decade or so), trillions of dollars in U.S. corporate debt has been automatically “rolled-over” (i.e. “extended” under similar financing terms). This mountain of debt has been rolled-over while totally ignoring the value of the “assets” which (supposedly) secure this debt.

While the total value of the assets in the commercial real estate market has shrunk from roughly $6 trillion to a little more than $4 trillion (just in the last 18 months), these rapidly diminishing assets (supposedly) “back” not only an equal amount of debt, but a greater amount of debt, since not only has all this mortgage-debt been “rolled over”, but U.S. corporations have continued to increase their indebtedness. The ultimate result of this financial-suicide has been to dramatically ratchet-up the leverage in this sector.

What makes this market an example of a “debt bubble” rather than an “asset bubble” is that the “bubble effect” is not being produced by soaring prices leading to a grossly over-valued market, but rather where simply the (debt) leverage has been rapidly ramped-up. In other words, this bubble doesn’t even have the (faintly) redeeming quality of being added leverage used to “chase high returns”. Instead, this has been a deliberate ramping-up of leverage on debt, where it has been obvious the whole time that all that has been done is to delay debt-defaults and the re-pricing of this debt “today” – at the expense of creating a market which must implode (tomorrow).

This is a similar scenario to state and local debt-bubbles in their pension plans. Nearly a decade ago, this sector began to accumulate funding-gaps. This was from a combination of unrealistic growth projections, increasing the size of the entitlements, and massive, systemic fraud throughout the United States pension system.

The corrupt-and-incompetent administrators of these funds responded to these funding-gaps by ratcheting-up the risk-level in these investment portfolios. This would have been irresponsible at any time, however, doing so just as the U.S.’s (manipulated) markets were entering a new “era” of “high volatility” was suicidal.

Now the funding-gaps of these pension funds have exploded to several trillions of dollars. The response of these corrupt-and-incompetent administrators has been to (yet again) increase the risk-level in many of these funds. This naturally evokes a common definition of insanity: doing exactly the same thing – but expecting a different result.

Ironically, what is one of the U.S.’s largest debt-bubbles is normally referred to (by the small minority who acknowledge it) as an “asset bubble”: the U.S. Treasuries market. Indeed, as readers will note, I referred to this market, myself as an “asset-bubble” in Part II.

In one respect, the U.S. Treasuries market does resemble an “asset bubble”: there has been an insane increase in the “price” which people will pay for these bonds (that is, the few real buyers who remain). Of course, since all “bonds” are (by definition) merely a type of loan, the U.S. Treasuries market is primarily a “debt bubble”.

As with the commercial real estate debt-bubble, the Treasuries debt-bubble is a “bubble” because the ability to “service” this mountain of debt has been severely impaired. While the commercial real estate market has become radically more leveraged due to falling asset-values, the U.S. Treasuries debt-bubble has become much more “leveraged” due to the collapse in government revenues (the largest plunge in U.S. government revenues in recorded history).

Yet, while the federal government’s revenues deteriorate, it has ramped-up Treasuries-borrowing exponentially – dumping more “supply” (i.e. more debt) onto this market than at any time in history (much more). Thus, while the rapid increase in borrowing increases the size of the Treasuries bubble (exponentially), the hollowing-out caused by declining revenues makes that bubble much more unstable.

While I have run out of “space” long before I have run out of U.S. bubbles, there is one more very important point which I must address. We must always remember that none of this increased U.S. government debt is being incurred to “fix” or “improve” anything.

As you see in the chart above, each new dollar of U.S. government debt now causes U.S. GDP to shrink by 50 cents (i.e. a 50% loss on every dollar). Let me repeat this: every new dollar of U.S. government debt makes the U.S. economy smaller and weaker (because its debts are now larger).  Naturally, this means that this “stimulus” could never, possibly generate a “U.S. economic recovery.”

The morally and intellectually bankrupt members of the Obama regime would have Americans believe that the “stimulus” debt being added to the national-mountain is the equivalent of bailing-out the Titanic (except they would use some ridiculously optimistic euphemism). As the chart above clearly displays, each new dollar of government debt is like blasting another hole in the “hull” of the Titanic: it must (as a matter of simple logic/arithmetic) cause the Titanic to sink sooner.

While many Western economies are creating their own “debt bubbles”, and moving toward economic cataclysm, none can match the lemming-like fanaticism of U.S. government “leaders” (i.e. banker-servants). Today it is blowing-up (i.e. inflating) these debt-bubbles, while tomorrow they will blow up: a “debt cemetery”, of a magnitude which has never been seen before, and hopefully will never be seen again.

In the conclusion of this series, I will discuss one of the favorite deceptions of the U.S. propaganda-machine: “the mythical gold bubble”.


Comments (2)Add Comment
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, August 06, 2010
Navderek, as a some-time devotee of "Sim" games, I understand exactly what you're referring to. In fact, it's REALLY sad that some of the clowns who are (supposedly) "fixing" the U.S. economy don't have the same simulation-based understanding of numbers.

For those who have no idea WHAT we are talking about, there are vast numbers of "Sim" computer and video games, with "Sim" being short for "simulation". These "games" originally came from research models used by scientists.

Thus, there is nothing "childish" about many of these games, although most of the new ones are specifically targeted at child-users.

The reason I mention this is because of what Navderek referred to: once your "economy" (in the game) is stuck in a strongly negative "trend", it is EXTREMELY difficult to pull-out of that "nose-dive" and salvage the game (i.e. the economy).

This is EXACTLY what the U.S. economy is currently experiencing. It's "fundamentals" are so HORRIBLY negative, that the pathetic "band-aids" attempted so far NEVER had any possibility of success. Indeed, my "gaming experience" with various strategy-games has SIGNIFICANTLY honed my ability to gauge numerical trends.

There is ONE thing which separates the "Sim" economic games from the U.S. economy. In the "Sim" games, there isn't a small group of fat-cats sitting around with $15 - $20 TRILLION which you could CONFISCATE, in order to re-establish solvency.

That's it. The ONLY way to avoid U.S. national default, and a total economic meltdown: confiscate (through taxation) the ill-gotten hoards of the ultra-rich. Keep in mind that it is the (income) tax system which has ALLOWED the amassing of such fortunes (while 80% of Americans get poorer every year).

The tax system has been used to rob-from-the-poor to give-to-the-rich ever since "income taxation" began. It's time to "even the score".

This can ONLY be accomplished from switching from an income-tax system to a wealth-tax system.
written by navderek, August 06, 2010
Enjoying these articles, very enlightening, and scary at the same time! smilies/cry.gif

What, if anything, could the US possibly do to get out of this mess? It seems to me like they are playing a bad game of SimCity...hehehe...I remember when I used to play that game years ago as a child, if things weren't going so well I would just keep taking out loans and try and build as much as I could before it was "Game Over"...hmmmm sounds a lot like the stimulus plan doesn't it?! Of course, there was a cheat code you could use, if I recall correctly you could type in "F" "U" "N" "D" "S" and you could suddenly bring yourself out of the red and avoid losing the game...but of course that was a game and this is real life...but similar to "quantitative easing" with the US government screaming "F" "U" "N" "D" "S" at the money printers! LoL
Strange, strange world we live in! Maybe Obama played too much SimCity! Aha! That's it! LoL

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