You had better read this article. I mean the whole article, not just my highlights.
David Stockman gave an interview. He was the head of the Office of Management and Budget early in Reagan’s term. He quit. He saw what Reagan’s deficits would do.
In 1977, when the federal deficit reached $54 billion, I predicted a $200 billion federal deficit in 1984. I was too optimistic. It hit $208 billion in 1983. Then it got worse.
After he quit in 1985, Stockman went into private investing.
Now he comes with a message. Let me cite the highlights. I am doing this, not to save you time — “I just don’t have to read the whole article!” — but to convey the magnitude of the crisis that lies ahead of us.
We do not see language like this from someone who has been in high government office, and who went on to make a lot of money as an investor. You had better take the following seriously.
I take it very seriously.
I don’t think we are at the beginning of the recovery. I think we are at the end of a disastrous debt supercycle that has gone on for the last thirty or forty years, really. It started when Nixon defaulted on our obligations under Bretton Woods and closed the gold window. Incrementally, year after year since then, we have been going in a direction of extremely unsound money, of massive borrowing in both the private and the public sector. We now have an economy that is saturated with debt: $54 trillion or $53 trillion – 3.5 times the GDP – way off the charts from where it was for a hundred years prior to the beginning of this. The idea that somehow all of that debt is irrelevant, as the Keynesians would tell us, is fundamentally wrong – and the reason why the economy can’t get up off the mat. . . .
We have a whole generation – the Baby Boom – that’s about ready to retire, and they have no retirement savings. We have a federal government that is bankrupt, literally. Its [debt is] $16 trillion and growing by a trillion a year. Something’s going to give. We can’t pay for all these entitlements. There won’t be the revenue generation in the economy to do it. . . .
Austerity is something that happens to you when you’re broke. And yes, it is painful and spending will go down and unemployment will go up and incomes will be impaired, but that is a consequence of the excess debt creation that we’ve had for the last thirty years. So austerity is what happens when you break the rules. . . .
This market isn’t real. . . .
If the bond ever starts falling in price, they unwind the carry trade. . . .
Then you get a message, “Do not pass go.” Sell your bonds, unwind your overnight debt, your repo positions. And the system then begins to contract – exactly what happened in September and October of 2008. Only, that time it was an unwind to the repo on mortgage-backed securities and CDOs and so forth. That was a minor trial run for the great unwind that is going to happen when the Treasury market is finally shattered with a lack of confidence because, on the margin, no one owns a Treasury bond: they just rent it on borrowed money. If the price starts falling, they’ll get out of that trade as fast as they got out of toxic CDOs. . . .
Well, if they run away from the Treasury, it sends compounding forces of contagion through the entire financial system. It hits next the MBS and the mortgage market. The mortgage market then scares the hell out of people about the housing recovery, which hasn’t happened anyway. And if there isn’t a housing recovery, middle-class Main-Street confidence isn’t going to recover, because it is the only asset they have, and for 25 million households it’s under water or close to under water. . . .
The Fed has destroyed the money market. It has destroyed the capital markets. . . . .
And you can’t have capitalism if the capital markets are dead, if the capital markets are simply a branch office – branch casino – of the central bank. That’s essentially what we have today. . . .
They are monetary central planners who are attempting to use the crude instrument of interest-rate pegging and yield-curve manipulation and essentially buying debt that no one else would buy, in order to keep this whole system afloat. It’s Ponzi economics. . . .
There are 25 million households in America who couldn’t move if they wanted to, because their mortgages are under water. They cannot generate a down payment and the 5% or 6% broker fee that you need to move. So we’ve got 25 million households immobilized, paralyzed, and worried every day about when they are going to lose property, because of what the Fed did. It’s a terrible indictment. . . .
It’s policy. If we don’t do something about the Fed, if we don’t drive the Bernankes and the Dudleys and the Yellens and the rest of these lunatic money-printers out of the Federal Reserve and get it under the control of people who have at least a modicum of sanity, we are just going to bury everybody deeper.. . .
As a result of that you have a doomsday machine.
As I was saying when the great margin call comes and they start selling the Treasury bond, they’ll take everything else with it. Real estate is priced off Treasuries. Mortgaged-backed securities are priced off Treasuries. Corporates are priced off Treasuries. Junk bonds are priced off Treasuries. Everything. The stock market will go into a panic. . . .
The only thing I think you can conclude is preservation is the only thing you are about as an investor. Forget about yield. Forget about return. Just keep yourself liquid and preserve your capital, because you can’t predict the day when, as I say, the great margin call in the sky comes down.
Read the article. All of it. Twice.