In The Dark

The stock market is zooming this morning on the news that only 5.7 million people in Florida will have to do without air conditioning, hot showers, and Keurig mochachinos at dawn’s early light Monday, Sept 11, 2017. I’m mindful that the news cycle right after a hurricane goes kind of blank for a day or more as dazed and confused citizens venture out to assess the damage. For now, there is very little hard information on the Web waves. Does Key West still exist? Hard to tell. We’ll know more this evening.

The one-two punch of Harvey and Irma did afford the folks-in-charge of the nation’s affairs a sly opportunity to get rid of that annoying debt ceiling problem. This is the law that established a limit on how much debt the Federal Reserve could “buy” from the national government. Some of you may be thinking: buy debtWhy would anybody want to buy somebody’s debt? Well, you see, this is securitized debt, i.e. bonds issued by the US Treasury, which pay interest, and so there is the incentive to buy it. Anyway, there used to — back in the days when the real interest rate stayed positive after deducting the percent of running inflation. This is where the situation gets interesting.

The debt ceiling law supposedly set limits on how much-bonded debt the government could issue (how much it could borrow) so it wouldn’t go hog wild spending money it didn’t have. Which is exactly what happened despite the debt limit because the “ceiling” got raised about a hundred times through the 20th century into the 21st so that the accumulated debt stands around $20 trillion.

Rational people recognize this $20 trillion for the supernatural scale of obligation it represents, and understand that it will never be paid back, so, what the hell? Why not just drop the pretense, but keep on working this racket of the government borrowing as much money was it wants, and the Federal Reserve creating that money (or “money”) on its computers to infinity. Seems to work so far.

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