FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Temporary Respite from Permanent Decline

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
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail