Skip to comments.At What Point Does the U.S. Just Go Broke?
Posted on 08/23/2008 7:14:45 AM PDT by kellynla
The U.S. government, like so many creaky monarchies and dubious regimes in history, may be conspiring to repudiate its own debt, suggests a former vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
U.S. Treasury debt obligations have long been considered the most secure and most certain of repayment in full, including interest. It's part of the reason the dollar has stayed strong, and why the United States has been able to borrow so much, so cheaply, for decades.
Increasingly, that trust is for the first time becoming questionable.
"Congress, with the complicity of the White House and the Fed, has arguably embarked on a stealth repudiation," warns Gerald P. O. O'Driscoll Jr., writing in The Wall Street Journal.
Although not predicting that the government will default on its obligations, O'Driscoll writes that U.S. debt will be met through what famed economist Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, called "pretend payments."
In other words, debts would be repaid through deliberately uncontrolled inflation, according to O'Driscoll, now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. That means Uncle Sam will be paying back its borrowed money with debased dollars, the so-called "pretend payments."
In their successful fight against inflation, President Ronald Reagan and then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker were greatly assisted by "bond vigilantes," who bid up interest rates on bonds to 10 percent and more.
The high cost of money and low taxes during that era ignited an economic boom, says O'Driscoll, and beefed up the Fed's credibility. The message: In its efforts to control inflation, the Fed won't cave to political pressure.
Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan continued to keep a lid on inflation, although inflationary currents were mild during most of his tenure.
Now, Fed chief Bernanke pursues an "easy money policy with inflation already picking up," says O'Driscoll.
(Excerpt) Read more at moneynews.newsmax.com ...
When other countries no longer accept debt denominated in dollars, but want it denominated in their currency (or gold).
As Ludwig Von Mises famously stated...’government is the only entity that can take a valuable commodity like paper and render it worthless merely by applying ink’
Never mind how much other countries owe the US. I’d like to see a chart on CNN showing how much countries A, B, C and D owe the US compared to how much the US owes those same countries. Cancel the difference and then see who is really indebted to whom.
Just print another $800 billion to send to Africa.
This is nothing new, it’s called monetizing the debt. My guess is that we’ll see a lot of this, and some benefits reduction and some higher taxes. I don’t think we’ll see a Latin American situation, although if we keep importing Latin American values we may reach that tipping point as well.
Don’t forget the value of federal property. The United States government is the biggest landholder in the United States. Even in down times, real estate is money.
I find the title of the article rather amusing. At what point do we go broke? Ha! Who in their right mind would think we haven’t been broke for years? We are approaching ten trillion in debt, and some people still think we are not broke? Just because we can print more money doesn’t mean we are a viable “enterprise”.
When the US is no longer a good investment.
What makes us a good investment?
- our free enterprise system.
- the productivity of our US workers.
- a thriving middle class.
I would way at some time between 2016 and 2020.
Look at what the Soviet Union did.
I see the 100K bill has the words “gold certificate” on it.
I suspect sometime in the future that our currency or debt instruments will again make reference to gold.
Remembers having photo taken in front of some of Binions 10K bills. They were all put into the collector universe and now command 100K+.
If you can find one: http://www.thecurrencyhouse.com/index.cfm?pgx=small10000
Standing by for the virulent ANTI-GOLD BUGS — all of whom believe themselves to be far wiser than the old dead white guys who kick started this nation with their blood and treasure — to venture forth and tell me — again — that I’m the crazy one!!
I won’t be holding my breath!!
(I wrote this a number of years ago when things were NOT going well with the economy. Trust me: They WILL get ugly once again as man — or certain men — cannot resist playing God. We continue to violate the universal, immutable laws of economics at our great peril.)
Despite the apparent economic strength of the American economy, history proves that EVERY house of cards eventually comes down. And the higher the card house, the harder the fall when it finally comes. And when it does, the more freedoms we will voluntarily surrender to “restore order.” It was the Founders’ concern about this historically valid problem which prompted their attempt — now ignored — to keep American “money” sound and honest.) Dick Bachert 1998
* * * * * * * *
The Forgotten History of Money
This is the fascinating story of the efforts by certain of the Founding Fathers to prevent the economic distress we find all about us today. It is also a sad story on the basis that modern, “sophisticated” Americans have abandoned the corrective institutional mechanism that remains in place to this day. As you read it, think about a world with many fewer S&L, banking and political scandals and economic problems now considered the norm.
“Blood running in the streets. Mobs of rioters and demonstrators threatening banks and legislatures. Looting of shop and home. Strikes and unemployment. Trade and distribution paralyzed. Shortages of food. Bankruptcies everywhere. Court dockets overloaded. Kidnappings for heavy ransom. Sexual perversion, drunkenness, lawlessness rampant. The wheels of government are clogged, and we are descending into the vale of confusion and darkness. No day was ever more clouded than the present. We are fast verging on anarchy and confusion. (George Washington in a 1786 letter to James Madison, describing the effects of fiat paper money inflation then ravaging America in the pre Constitutional period.)
“The annihilation (of the paper money) was so complete that barber shops were papered in jest with the bills; and sailors, on returning from cruises, being paid off in bundles of this worthless money, had suits made of it, and with characteristic lightheartedness, turned their loss into frolic by parading through the streets in decayed finery which in its better days had passed for thousands of dollars.” (Contemporary writer, Breck, 1786)
“Paper money polluted the equity of our laws, turned them into engines of oppression, corrupted the justice of our public administration, destroyed the fortunes of thousands who had confidence in it, enervated the trade and husbandry, and the manufactures of our country, and went far to destroy the morality of out people.” (Peletiah Webster, 1786)
At the drafting of the U.S.Constitution, there were many “Friends of Paper Money” present. On August 16, 1787, when the discussion arose on Article 1, Section 8, the proposed wording was this: “The Legislature of the United States shall have the power to...coin money...and emit bills of credit of the United States.”
A hot argument ensued on the power to emit bills of credit, which is another way of saying “printing paper money”.
Here are the actual words James Madison wrote describing the debate in his diary: “Mr.G.Morris moved to strike out *and emit bills of credit.* If the United States had credit, such bills would be unnecessary; if they had not, unjust and useless.
MADISON: Will it not be sufficient to prohibit the making them a tender? This will remove the temptation to emit them with unjust views. And promissory notes in that shape may in some emergencies be best.
MORRIS: Striking out the words will leave room still for notes of a responsible minister which will do the good without the mischief. The monied interest will oppose the plan of the Government, if paper emissions be not prohibited.
COL.MASON: Though he had a mortal hatred to paper money, yet as he could not foresee all emergencies, we was unwilling to tie the hands of the Legislature [Legislature = Congress].
MR.MERCER:(A friend to paper money) It was impolitic...to excite the opposition of all those who were friends to paper money.
MR. ELSEWORTH thought this was a favorable moment to shut and bar the door against paper money. The mischiefs of the various experiments which had been made, were now fresh in the public mind and had excited the disgust of all the respectable part of America. By withholding the power from the new Government, more friends of influence would be gained to it than by almost anything else...Give the Government credit, and other will offer. The power may do harm, never good.
MR.WILSON: It will have a most salutary influence on the credit of the United States to remove the possibility of paper money. This expedient can never succeed whilst its mischiefs are remembered, and as long as it can be resorted to, it will be a bar to other resources.
MR.READ thought the words, if not struck out, would be as alarming as the mark of the Beast in Revelation.
MR.LANGDON had rather reject the whole plan than retain the three words *and emit bills*”.
The motion for striking out carried.
Historian George Bancroft later wrote: “James Madison left his testimony that *the pretext for a paper currency, and particularly for making the bills a tender, either for public or private debts, was cut off.* This is the interpretation of the clause, made at the time of its adoption by all the statesmen of that age, not open to dispute because too clear for argument, and never disputed so long as any one man who took part in framing the constitution remained alive.”
(Bancroft founder of the U.S.Naval Academy at Annapolis among other accomplishments wrote a book on this very subject entitled A Plea for the Constitution of the United States: Wounded in the House of Its Guardians. During WWII, FDR a serious friend of paper money ostensibly to supply the war effort, ordered the printing plates for many historical books smelted. Bancrofts book was among them. A photocopy of one of the remaining originals can be found here
ROGER SHERMAN(1721 1793)should be a name familiar to every American. As familiar as Washington, Madison, Jefferson and Adams. He is the only man to have signed all 4 documents surrounding the formation of the United States of America: The Continental Association of 1774, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation and The United States Constitution. He was a Judge of the Superior Court in New Haven, Connecticut, serving that office with distinction from 1766 until 1788. He served as Treasurer of Yale University from 1765 to 1776. He was renouned for his high intelligence and unswerving honesty and was described by John Adams “as honest as an angel and as
firm in the cause of American independence as Mount Atlas.” He served in the U.S.Senate from 1791 until his death in 1793.
Why is Roger Sherman*s name unfamiliar? HE WAS AN ENEMY OF PAPER MONEY!! In 1751, Roger Sherman and his brother William sued James Battle for paying a debt to their shop in New Milford, Connecticut, in depreciating paper currency. Over a period of 15 months, Battle had charged “divers wares and merchandizes” amounting to 129 pounds of what
Sherman assumed were pounds of Connecticut “Old Tenor”, a stable currency whose value were well preserved by taxation taking it out of circulation. But Battle assumed the debt was denominated in pounds of ever depreciating Rhode Island currency, tendered in same, and the Shermans took a beating in the payment and sued for recovery of loss by depreciation. The Shermans lost when Battle argued that he was merely following the accepted custom of the day. In 1752, Sherman wrote his book “A Caveat Against Injustice or An Inquiry into the Evils of a Fluctuating Medium of Exchange” indicting UNBACKED PAPER MONEY.
It was this experience that Sherman brought to the Constitutional Convention and prompted him to rise on August 28,1787 and propose new, more restrictive wording to Article 1,Section 10. The standing version under consideration was worded this way: “No state shall coin money; nor grant letters of marque and reprisal; nor enter into any Treaty, alliance, or confederation; nor grant any title of Nobility.” (From Madisons Notes of the Convention) “Judge Sherman and Mr. Wilson moved to insert the words *coin money* the words *nor emit bills of credit, nor make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts* making these prohibitions absolute, instead of making the measures allowable with the consent of the Legislature of the U.S. Mr. Sherman thought this a FAVORABLE CRISIS FOR CRUSHING PAPER MONEY. If the consent of the Legislature could authorize emissions of it, the friends of paper money would make every exertion to get into the Legislature in order to license it.” Mr. Sherman*s and Mr. Wilson*s motion was quickly agreed to and became the supreme law of the land.
Some additional quotations to ponder:
“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the constitution or confederation, nor from a want of honor or virtue so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation” (John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1787)
“I deny the power of the general government to making paper money, or anything else, a legal tender.” (Thomas Jefferson)
“You have been doubtless been informed, from time to time, of the happy progress of our affairs. The principal difficulties seem in great measure to have been surmounted. Our revenues have been considerably
more productive than it was imagined they would be. I mention this to show the spirit of enterprise that prevails.” (George Washington in a letter to the Marquis de LaFayette, June 3, 1790 AFTER the United States Constitution prohibited unbacked paper money at Article 1, Section 10)
“Since the federal constitution has removed all danger of our having a paper tender, our trade is advanced fifty percent. Our monied people can trust their cash abroad, and have brought their coin into circulation.” (December 16, 1789 edition of The Pennsylvania
“Our country, my dear sir, is fast progressing in its political importance and social happiness.” (George Washington in a letter to the Marquis de LaFayette, March 19, 1791)
“The United States enjoys a sense of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.” (George Washington in a letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham, July 19,1791)
“Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it. Our public credit stands on that high ground which three years ago would have been
considered as a species of madness to have foretold.” (George Washington in a letter to David Humphreys, July 20, 1791)
“It is apparent from the whole context of the Constitution as well as the times which gave birth to it, that it was the purpose of the Convention to establish a currency consisting of the precious metals.
These were adopted by a permanent rule excluding the use of a perishable medium of exchange, such as certain agricultural commodities recognized by the statutes of some States as tender for debts, or the still more pernicious expedient of PAPER CURRENCY.” (Andrew Jackson, 8th Annual Message to Congress, December 5, 1836)
DESPITE WHAT YOU WERE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL, THE HISTORICAL RECORD IS CRYSTAL CLEAR: AMERICA WAS TO HAVE BEEN SPARED THE DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS OF AN UNBACKED PAPER MONEY SYSTEM. MOST OF THE PROBLEMS WE FACE TODAY CAN BE TRACED TO WHAT ANDREW JACKSON CALLED “THE PERNICIOUS EXPEDIENT OF PAPER MONEY”.
HISTORY TEACHES THAT AN “ARTIFICIAL” MONEY CREATES AN “ARTIFICIAL” WORLD WHERE THE PRICE FOR SOME ITEM...EVEN OUR MOST POPULAR WELFARE “PROGRAM”...CAN BE DEFERRED TO FUTURE GENERATIONS (OUR $11 TRILLION
NATIONAL DEBT) OR PAID WITH A “MONEY” CREATED OUT OF THIN AIR WHICH ROBS THE VALUE FROM THE MONEY WE MIGHT BE UNFORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE IN OUR POCKETS AT THAT MOMENT (INFLATION). AND ONE THING YOU MUST REMEMBER ABOUT INFLATION IS THAT IT IS NOT AN “EQUAL OPPORTUNITY” DESTROYER: THOSE FIRST IN LINE TO GET THEIR HANDS ON THE NEW MONEY ROLLING OFF THE PRESSES (THE MODERN FRIENDS OF PAPER MONEY) HAVE A CHANCE TO SPEND IT BEFORE IT LOSES ITS VALUE. THE LITTLE PEOPLE (THATS US, FOLKS!) FARTHEST DOWN THE LINE ARE THE ONES WHO FEEL THE FULLEST EFFECTS OF THIS DESTRUCTIVE PROCESS.
In early 1983, I wrote Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia
to ask about the redeemability of Federal Reserve
Notes. His reply arrived on March 11 and read (in
part) as posted below.
It would APPEAR that either:
1. Sam Nunn ACTUALLY gets it about what happens when man
(or certain men) play God with money;
2. Nunn DOESNT get it — and some staffer sent this out
without actually READING it or running it by the boss (in
which case said staffer now works for the DC Sanitation
3. None of the above. Because nearly every American is an
economic illiterate, what possible harm could it do to send it?
In which case, you economic illiterates who read this will mutter
So what? and flip back to MTV.
In any event, for the edification of you non-economic illiterates
out there, here it is.
Thank you for your letter requesting information on
redeemability of Federal Reserve Notes for lawful
money. I have enclosed information from the
Congressional Research Service that I hope will be of
The enclosure was 4 pages from something called
“The Gold Standard: Its history and record against
inflation. A Study prepared for the use of the
Subcommittee on Monetary and Fiscal Policy of the Joint
Economic Committee, Congress of The United States.” It
was printed September 18, 1981. I was sent only the
England and U.S. portions of the study. What they
revealed was most interesting. From the England study:
“England has had 350 years of experience with
various forms of the gold standard. She first went on
the gold coin standard, de facto, in 1717. This was
done by Sir Isaac Newton, then Master of the Mint (and we all know what a dumb ass HE was). It
was done by pricing gold at the mint more favorably,
relative to silver, than in the marketplace. An Act of
Parliament in 1816 gave formal recognition to this
‘new’ monetary standard that had been operational for a
century in promoting England to a world power.
“Between 1797 and 1821, England temporarily
suspended the gold standard because of the economic
disruptions of the Napoleonic Wars. With no gold
backing to the currency, the supply of money had no
discipline except that imposed by the Board of
Governors of the Bank of England (analogous to our Fed
The result was that wholesale commodity prices shot up
nearly 50% in 4 years-a momentous inflation.
The ‘Bullion Committee’ was formed by parliament
to investigate. Their findings read in part as follows:
‘The suspension of cash payments has had the
effect of committing into the hands of the Directors of
the Bank of England, to be exercised by their sole
discretion the immediate charge of supplying the
country with that quantity of circulating medium which
exactly proportioned to the wants and occasions of
the Public. In the judgment of the Committee, that is
a trust which it is unreasonable to expect that the
Directors of the Bank of England should ever be able to
discharge. The most detailed knowledge of the actual
trade of the Country, combined with the profound
Science in all principles of Money and circulation,
would not allow any man or set of men to adjust, and
keep always adjusted, the right proportion of
circulating medium in a country to the wants of trade.’
“Gold convertibility of the currency was resumed
in 1821. It is a matter of record that wholesale
prices came back down immediately to the level
preceding the hiatus in the gold standard.
“England was again off the gold standard between
1919 and 1925. When she resumed gold convertibility it
was on a gold bullion standard where she remained until
1931, when she went off the gold standard altogether in
the midst of the Great Depression.”
Under the United States, we find the following:
“The long period of the gold standard in the
United States was not an economic nirvana. The most
severe inflationary period reaching completion under
the gold standard was from 1897 to 1920. But from
trough to peak, the average annual compound rate
was 5.4%—mild by present experience. And most of this
occurred from 1914 to 1920 when the European war and
its aftermath bore so heavily on the domestic economy.
If we look at the period between 1897 and 1914, the
average annual rate of inflation was 2.6% — enviable
from the perspective of today.”
The gold bugs love a thread like this. But the fact is, if the US defaults on it’s debt then the only commodity worth anything will be bullets.
You’ve all heard stories about banks that keep supporting their highest leveraged lendees, long after they’ve lost their creditworthiness. After a while, you’ve got to keep them afloat because you’ve got so much at stake.
The US Gov is that position. So many entities have lent it so much $$, that the impact of it defaulting would be unthinkable. This is especially the case when you think of all the US guarantees in return. If the Guaranteer in Chief, goes under, then everyone at the party will suddenly realize they’ve been dancing on the ledge of a skyscraper.
So they keep on feeding the Beast, ‘cause its cheaper to do that than to reap the whirlwind of consequences.
Few remember that the final straw that ultimately took down the Soviet Union was a simple inability to pay employees. There just plain wasn’t enough money to back paychecks, so the government shut down, and the component states went their separate ways.
We risk the same. Once there’s not enough money to pay up, those expecting payment will simply stop cooperating, and there will be no government.
Read the article. It is about “stealth repudiation,” i.e. inflating your way out of debt.
Reports are that DeGaulle said just that before U.S. went off gold standard during Nixon’s term.
Two terms of an Obama Presidency should just about do it.
“We are approaching ten trillion in debt, and some people still think we are not broke?”
Yes, some people are crazy that way. They see a total debt of $10 trillion and an annual GDP of $14.5 trillion and come up with a different opinion than yours.
Now I’ll turn it back to the people who have absolutely no education or clue about basic economics, but who nevertheless look down their noses at the science. And, also, to the gold peddlers.
Coming soon, since our politicians can’t figure out that the money they spend to buy votes has to come from somewhere.
I guess they somehow believe we can pay off the debt at any time by using gdp? I'll never understand the crazies in power.
1933 & 34 acts. Yes.
The US also failed at the time of Woodrow Wilson, when our creditors could not be paid. Examining these old acts is telling. Sometimes they’re hard to find and hidden away on crackpot sites so you feel ridiculous reading about them. But they’re there, on the books. IIRC, one of the acts in the 191X’s (teens) was CHANGED after the fact. Here I thought only the dems of modern times had their staffers add amendment language, etc. after a bill was passed. Gives you a lot of confidence.
“- our free enterprise system.
- the productivity of our US workers.
- a thriving middle class.”
Each of which is under direct attack.
Never, as long as the dollar remains backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Marine Corps. ;)
The USA’s assets should exceed 100 trillion dollars or more. It’s hard to assess the value of all of the government owned land and natural resources.
Did we spend it all yet?
“USAs assets should exceed 100 trillion dollars or more. Its hard to assess the value of all of the government owned land and natural resources.
Did we spend it all yet?”
Hardly and with a 14 trillion dollar GDP and a 10 trillion dollar debt; this whole mess could be turned around in 10-20 years if the clowns in D.C. would just STOP spending our money like drunken sailors on a weekend liberty...
balance the budget, pay down the debt, quit printing money and quit messing with the interest rates...it’s not rocket science.
Heck, if they would just let us drill for oil, build nuclear power plants and new refineries, we’d lower our energy costs which would allow for other manufacturers and businesses like the airlines & trucking to flourish and prosper; we’d keep the majority of that 600 Billion for oil we send overseas annually at home and we could/would not only generate more jobs but MORE GOOD PAYING JOBS!
Actually the US is, in fact, repudiating or welshing, on part of its debt. It has been doing that for seven years. That is the effect of inflation or “devaluation” as they like to call it now.By manipulating the interest rates the effect is enhanced because borrowing rates stay nominally low and actually extremely low. Real borrowing rates are close to 0% or even negative.
I’ve been a big fan of the idea of freezing spending totally and make the politicians choose what to cut if they wanted a new program.
No built in inflation budget adjustments allowed. Natural catastrophe? Better sharpen your pencils for the cuts if you’re going to ride to the rescue with government funds.
We would as you say grow out of our debt in 20 years or so.
What are people like us going to do when things finally do go kaput is what I’m wondering?
“What are people like us going to do when things finally do go kaput is what Im wondering?”
Pray we’re still the bitter etc. types. Have hillbilly compounds.
Jus’ ‘member, wur hicks.
What do they say- if you owe the bank a hundred bucks, you have a problem. If you owe the bank a billion bucks, the bank has a problem.
If it all goes down badly, let the central banks try to collect. We still have ammo.
Thanks. WIll go find this treaty of Avalon. Years ago, I read the Trafficant pieces he let fly just before going to jail. There’s some interesting historical references in there, if they’re still around somewhere.
I had a discussion the other day about Colonial Scrip and Franklin’s record of economic tensions between the colonies and the Bank of England- which according to Franklin, was the actual cause of the Revolution.
Amazing how popular American history has been sanitized of the history of banking.