Retire? You can fuggetaboutit if the new “Global Debt Time-Bomb” is detonated by any one of 20 “Made-in-America” trigger-mechanisms. Yes, 20. And yes, any one can destroy your retirement, because all 20 are inexorably linked, a house-of-cards, a circular firing squad destined to self-destruct, triggering the third great Wall Street meltdown of the 21st Century, igniting the “Great Depression II” that Bush, Bernanke,Paulson and now Obama have simply delayed with their endless knee-jerk, debt-laden wars, stimulus bonanzas, and bailouts.
Wow, what an epic Hollywood blockbuster this will make: You know the drama, can’t miss the warnings. The financial press is flooding us with plot lines … a Forbes cover story focuses on a “Global Debt Bomb: How It Could Wreck Your Life” … Last year leaders at the World Economic Forum on Swiss Mt. Davos fear another global meltdown will trigger mass rebellions … The Economist calls the plot a “Global Asset Bubble,” with cheap money fast driving up asset prices, a new trigger for the ticking debt time-bomb. Plus, Bloomberg-BusinessWeek is adding jet fuel to the ticking time-bomb in: “After the Stimulus Binge, a Debt Hangover: Trillions of dollars have been spent keeping the global economy afloat. But now fears about the Great Recession are giving way to worries about something else: The Great Reckoning” when massive debts come due. Then the debt bomb explodes “and the results won’t be pretty for investors or elected officials.”
You’ll find the trigger mechanism deep in your brain, your irrational behavior and your DNA. You’ll also find it in historical cycles: For example, in This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by economists Reinhart and Rogoff we discover: The “90% ratio of government debt to GDP is a tipping point in economic growth.” For 800 years “you increase it over and beyond a high threshold, and boom!” Well guess what? “The U.S. government-debt-to-GDP ratio is 84%.” Soon, Ka-Booom! Depression. Kiss your retirement goodbye.
Who knows? Forbes? Bloomberg/BusinessWeek? The Economist? Davos-World Economic Forum? True, they’re all looking at the same plotline for a Hollywood blockbuster about the “Global Debt Time-Bomb.” But the financial press navigates in a fog. There’s not just one, but many triggers, all linked in a lethal network, we’ve reported on it for years. Any one could easily trip this debt-bomb, set off a chain reaction of unintended consequences, ignite the 21st Century’s third meltdown, spread the coming “Great Depression II,” the new Black Plague. You tell us: What triggers this firestorm?
Poll: 20 economic “WMDs” triggering ticking “Global Debt Time-Bomb”
1. Federal Budget Deficit Bomb
The Bush/Cheney wars pushed America deep into a debt hole. Federal debt limit was just raised almost 100% with Obama’s 2010 budget, to $14.3 trillion vs $7.8 trillion in 2005. The Congressional Budget Office predicts future deficits around 4% through 2020. Get it? America’s debt at “84% of GDP” will soon pass that toxic 90% trigger point.
2. U.S. Foreign Trade Bomb
Monthly deficits actually dropped from $50 billion per month to roughly $35 billion. But the total continues climbing as $400 billion is added each year. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America, with China holding over $1.3 trillion in Treasury debt.
3. Weakening US Dollar as Foreign Reserve Currency
Fear China and other currencies will replace dollar as main foreign reserves. The dollar’s fallen: From the $120 range at the Clinton-to-Bush handoff to a $70-$90 range.
4. “Cheap Money” Bomb: Credit Ratings Down, Rates Up
Economists at S&P, Fitch and Moody’s were totally co-conspirators of Fat Cat Bankers, misleading investors before meltdown: Soon, debt up, ratings down, interest rates soar.
5. Global Real Estate Bomb
Dubai Tower, new “world’s tallest building” is empty. BusinessWeek warns that China’s housing collapse could be worse than America’s. Plus the U.S. commercial real estate bubble is now $1.7 trillion, a “ticking time-bomb” bloating 25% of bank balance sheets.
6. Peak Oil & the Population Bomb
China and India each need 500 new cities. UN estimates world population exploding 50% from 6-to-9 billion by 2050: Three billion more humans demanding more automobiles, exhausting more resources to feed their version of the gas-guzzling “America Dream.
7. Social Security Bomb
We have no choice, eventually we must either cut benefits or raise taxes. Politicians hate both, so they’ll do nothing. Delays worsen solutions. Without action, by 2035 Social Security and Medicare benefits will eat up the entire federal budget other than defense.
8. Medicare: a Nuclear Bomb
Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. In 5 years estimates rose from about $35 trillion to over $60 trillion now.
9. Healthcare Insurance Bomb
Burden increasingly shifted to employees. Costs rising faster than inflation. Recent Obamacare plan would have cost $90 billion annually, paid to Big Pharma and insurers.
10. State & Local Gov’t Budget Bombs
Deficits of $110 billion in 2010, $178 billion in 2011on top of more that $450 billion in underfunded state and municipal employee pension funds.
11. Underfunded Corporate Pensions Bomb
From $60 billion surplus in 2007 to $409 billion deficit in 2009. And a whopping 92% of the pension plans of companies are now under-funded. Defaults guaranteed by taxpayers.
12. Consumer Debt Bomb
Americans are still living beyond our means. Even with a downturn, consumer debt rose from about $2.3 to $2.5 trillion. Fat Cat Bankers love it, yes, love making matters worse by gouging cardholders and mortgagees, blocking help in foreclosures and bankruptcies.
13. Personal Savings Bomb
Before 2008 meltdown savings rate dropped from about 10% in the early 1980s to below zero, now increasing, slowing retail recovery. Today, government’s the big “unsaver.”
14. War and Military Defense Deficits
Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars costs $200+ billion annually, $3 trillion minimum, with massive long-term costs for veteran medical care, equipment renewal, recruitment.
15. Homeland Insecurity Deficits
Security at airports, seaports, borders, vulnerable chemical plants alls increase budgets.
16. Fed/Treasury Bailout Bombs
Tax credits, loans, cash and purchase of toxic assets from Wall Street banks estimated at $23.7 trillion as new debt was shifted from too-big-to-fail “Fat-Cat” banks to taxpayers.
17. Insatiable Washington Lobbyists Bombs
Paulson, Goldman, Geithner, Morgan and Wall Street banks, through their lobbyists and former employees working inside now have absolute power over government spending. Democracy and voters are now irrelevant in America’s new “corporate-socialism.”
18. Shadow Banking: The Derivatives “WMD” Bomb
Wall Street wants no regulation of this $670 trillion, hi-risk, out-of-control, gambling casino that’s highly leveraged versus the $50 trillion total GDP of all nations. We forget that derivatives akmost destroyed global economies in 2008-09, finally will by 2012.
19. Dysfunctional Two-Party Political Bomb
Polarized partisanship increasing: Every day both parties show zero interest cooperating for the public good. Instead they fight viciously, resisting everything and anything proposed by opponents. Only goal: Score political points; make the other side look bad.
20. The Coming “Populous Rebellion” Bombs
Nobody trusts anyone in authority. For good reason. So immediate gratification, short-term betting, and a lack of long term perspective wins for individual investors, consumers and taxpayers as well as Washington, Wall Street and Corporate America CEOs. Today: “Doing what’s right for the common good and country” is just empty political rhetoric.
Forbes. The Economist. Davos-World Economic Forum. Bloomberg-BusinessWeek. All one voice, one loud, lonely chorus echoing that famous Beatles tune: “Head in a cloud … The fool on the hill, sees the sun going down … a thousand voices talking perfectly loud. But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make … And the eyes in his head, see the world spinning ‘round …ooh, round and round and round.”
A decade ago, on March 20, 2000 as Nasdaq and the DJIA peaked I wrote a column: “Next crash? Sorry, you won’t hear it coming.” But nobody wanted the party to end. What followed? A 30-month recession and an $8 trillion market cap loss. We reported on warnings again many times starting in 2004. Till Wall Street triggered another meltdown in 2007. You know what happened. Same today. Nobody listens. Lessons not learned. Warning: A third great meltdown is coming. But nobody listens to the “fools on the hill.”
Historians and behavioral economists tell us most investors are blind optimists. Investors cannot see bubbles from inside their bubble. Nor “Fat Cat Bankers” from inside their mega-bonus-bubble. Nor politicians from inside the “beltway bubble.” Why? The optimist’s brain filters out “bad” news. They “know” their dreams of prosperity will come true. Then, when they finally do see that the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train,” it’s always too late.
I will say it again, gently: A new meltdown coming. The “Great Depression II” is coming, soon. And yet, I know your mental filters are working overtime, blocking warnings of a bomb. I can even hear you calling me “the fool on the hill who sees the sun going down, the world spinning round” … sees us kissing our retirement goodbye.