Debt Clock Ticking, by John Mauldin

The clock is ticking and the hour is very late. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.

—Benjamin Franklin

What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?

—Adam Smith

There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting out of debt.

—Dave Ramsey

Modern slaves are not in chains, they are in debt.

—Anonymous

Debt isn’t always a form of slavery, but those old sayings didn’t come from nowhere. You can find hundreds of quotes on the Internet discussing the problems of debt. Debt traps borrowers, lenders, and innocent bystanders, too. If debt were a drug, we would demand it be outlawed.

The advantage of debt is it lets you bring the future into the present, buying things you couldn’t afford if you had to pay full price now. This can be good or bad, depending on what you buy. Going into debt for education that will raise your income, or for factory equipment that will increase your output, can be positive. Debt for a tropical vacation, probably not.

And that’s our core economic problem. The entire world went into debt for the equivalent of tropical vacations and, having now enjoyed them, realizes it must pay the bill. The resources to do so do not yet exist. So, in the time-honored tradition of lenders everywhere, we extend and pretend. But with our ability to pretend almost gone, we’re heading to the Great Reset.

I’ve been analogizing our fate to a train wreck you know is coming but are powerless to stop. You look away because watching the disaster hurts, but it happens anyway. That’s where we are, like it or not.

And we don’t even really like to talk about it in polite circles. In a private email conversation this week, which must remain anonymous, this pithy line jumped out at me:

The total of Federal (remember they do not use GAAP) debt, state debt, and city debt [unfunded liabilities included] exceeds $200 trillion dollars. There is no set of math that works to pay this off. Let me be sure it’s heard by repeating it: There is no set of math that works to pay this off. Therefore, there has to be some form of remediation. This conversation is uncomfortable, so it is avoided.

Today’s letter is chapter 5 in my Train Crash series. If you’re just joining us, here are links to help you catch up.

Last week, we discussed the Italian political crisis and potential eurozone breakdown. That is a dangerous possibility, but far from the only one. As we’ll see today, the world has so much debt that the cracks could happen anywhere.

To continue reading: Debt Clock Ticking

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