They Sold Us The Rope… Too Bad They’re Tied To The Other End

I’ve pointed out the old saying — “If you owe the bank $5,000 and can’t pay, you have a problem. If you owe the bank $5,000,000,000 and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.”

Well, the bank has a problem:

What he might have said was that the nations funding the majority of America’s public debt — most notably the Chinese, Japanese and the Saudis — need to be prepared to sacrifice. They have to fund America’s annual trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future. These creditor nations, who already own trillions of dollars of U.S. government debt, are the only entities capable of underwriting the spending that Mr. Obama envisions and that U.S. citizens demand.

These nations, in other words, must never use the money to buy other assets or fund domestic spending initiatives for their own people. When the old Treasury bills mature, they can do nothing with the money except buy new ones. To do otherwise would implode the market for U.S. Treasurys (sending U.S. interest rates much higher) and start a run on the dollar. (If foreign central banks become net sellers of Treasurys, the demand for dollars needed to buy them would plummet.)

In sum, our creditors must give up all hope of accessing the principal, and may be compensated only by the paltry 2%-3% yield our bonds currently deliver.

So as a spin on the old [perhaps mis-attributed] Lenin quote about rope, the Chinese, Japanese and Saudis sold us the rope to hang ourselves. But we tricked them. We paid for that rope with nothing.

We may be hanging ourselves, but the other end of that rope is still tied to them with our dollars — if we go down, they’re coming with.

Maybe this is just one of my more pessimistic days, but I think that we’re actually reaching a major tipping point. I don’t know what that will entail, but it won’t be pretty. You can only sweep the dust under the rug for so long; eventually you trip over the big bump in the rug.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit&Run