As with much of the euro area, the US is in a debt trap. All the politicking in DC does not change this economic fact. The federal debt is going to be devalued. Yet even now, amid a new economic slowdown, US consumer price inflation is set to remain positive following a large spike in global food prices. Few things damage economic confidence more than food price inflation. Combined with the escalating financial crises in the euro area and also now in US municipals, the global slowdown already underway is likely to accelerate, leading to a further deterioration of sovereign finances. The debt trap is deepening, with ominous consequences for monetary and price inflation. The dollar and most currencies remain severely overvalued; gold and most commodities, undervalued.
WELCOME TO THE DEBT TRAP
The US is in a debt trap, plain and simple. Yet policymakers refuse to talk about it because to admit that it is a debt trap is to admit policy failure. After all, it is rather difficult to blame a government debt trap on ‘free-markets’. (Not that free markets had much to do with the world’s most regulated industry—finance and banking—blowing itself up in 2008. No, such colossal blowups require vast amounts of government intervention.)
That said, the US is not in the same debt trap as much of the euro-area because its debts can be systematically devalued through monetisation by the national central bank. In the euro-area, this requires some degree of consensus, and the interests of all members are not congruent. Hence the constant back-and-forth between those who want to be bailed out of their debt traps, and those who are being called upon to do the bailing.
The US has no such monetary straightjacket, or any fiscal straightjacket for that matter. President v Congress, Republicans v Democrats, left v right: If there is anything the post-WWII history of US monetary and fiscal policy should teach us, it should be that when it comes to growing the money supply and the federal debt, Washington DC is run by a single branch of government, a single party and a single point on the left-right spectrum. And this branch, the party that controls it and its political orientation is not something that changes with elections. It is a national political pathology.
But remember, the US debt is denominated in dollars. The Fed can assume a growing portion of the debt with incremental monetisation (QE3, 4 … X) and, Vóila! the debt can be devalued to whatever level that branch, that party, deems desirable. While this might imply that government salaries are also being devalued along with the debt, no matter, they can just vote themselves more of those periodic salary increases and all will be well in DC and also some rather nice Virginia and Maryland suburbs.
Those not in a position to vote themselves pay rises should consider buying some gold instead. Diluting dollars are not a store of value. Gold is.
Full report here (pdf)