FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Temporary Respite from Permanent Decline

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Americans were alarmed last June as the price of oil raced toward $150 per barrel. Today, as the price falls toward $100, Americans feel relieved. They have forgotten that prior to the Bush regime’s wars, the price of oil was $30 per barrel.

Similarly with the dollar. Despair ruled as the dollar fell to 1.6 to 1 euro. Now with the dollar’s rise to 1.4 to 1 euro, relief bathes the markets. The fact that the dollar will never return to parity with the euro is out of sight and out of mind.

In declines, as in rises, speculation can run ahead of fundamentals. Just as speculators in oil futures markets can drive the price too high, currency speculators can drive a currency too low.

The dollar’s problems are the enormous US trade and budget deficits and the fact that there appears to be no way to close either. Offshoring of US manufacturing and service jobs has enlarged the trade deficit while shrinking the domestic income tax base. In addition to its energy imports, the US has large trade deficits in manufactures.

When inflation is properly measured, the US economy has experienced little, if any, real economic growth in the 21st century. Yet, according to economist Joseph Stiglitz, the total cost of the Bush regime’s wars in behalf of US and Israeli hegemony is $3 trillion. Without a rapidly expanding economy, there are insufficient tax revenues to cover these costs.

The US is dependent on foreigners to finance its $600 billion annual government budget deficit and its $800 billion annual trade deficit. The US government relies on foreigners to recycle their $800 billion trade surplus dollars to buy US Treasury bonds and mortgage debt.

Foreigners were becoming reluctant to continue the same rate of recycling. This reluctance contributed to the dollar’s slide and to the worsening situation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which need to issue their own bonds in order to support their mortgage holdings.

The US Treasury took steps to avert, or perhaps more accurately to push off into the future, a crisis. Foreign central banks agreed to purchase dollars so that low US interest rates could persist through the November election. HIgh interest rates now would make the mortgage crisis unmanageable.

To keep the recycling going, the US Treasury took the mortgage giants under its wing in order to reassure foreign investors. According to a September 8 Reuters report from Beijing, “China owned $376 billion of debt issued by US government agencies, principally Fannie and Freddie, as of mid-2007.”

If the Treasury’s new relationship with Fannie and Freddie implies a guarantee of the bad mortgages as well as the bonds issued by the two companies, it is possible that the Treasury has put at risk its own ability to borrow.

The Treasury already has to borrow $600 billion a year to finance the operations of the US government. How much in addition will the Treasury need to borrow, or co-sign, in order to keep the two companies afloat and to keep mortgages from defaulting?

The total could be greater than the US Treasury’s credibility.

It remains to be seen whether the Treasury has put troubled debt on the same footing as its own or brought trouble to Treasury bonds.

If the latter, America’s superpower days are over, and the world will be spared the neocons’ hegemonic wars.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail