First came Covid, then came monetary inflation, then came higher interest rates, and then came a financial crash. From Christian Parenti at thegrayzone.com:
The lockdowns and the stimulus required to keep the economy alive helped drive inflation. Then the Fed jacked up interest rates. And all hell broke loose.
On Friday March 10th, 2023, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) died of Covid. Alright, it’s a little more complicated than that, but Covid lockdowns followed by massive government stimulus were a critical – and massively under-acknowledged – factor in propelling the bank’s demise.
At the heart of the crisis is the gigantic pile of low-interest debt that was issued during the height of the pandemic. While private-sector pandemic-era debt like corporate bonds also soared, US government debt like Treasury bonds piled up.
In a nutshell, during the pandemic the government issued enormous amounts of extremely low interest government debt — about $4.2 trillion of it. But now interest rates, including on government debt, are higher than they have been in 15 years and investors are dumping their old low-interest debt. As they dump, the resale price of the old debt goes down. The more it declines, the more investors want to dump. And thus, a panic is born.
To understand the problem fully, the question of US government debt has to be put into its larger context, which is: the pandemic response as a whole.
When news of the Covid virus first broke in December 2019, the 2 Year Treasury bond was being offered at 1.64% interest; the 10 year was at about 1.80%, and the resale value of such bonds on secondary markets was strong. Then, in March 2020, as Covid cases and deaths spiked, the US began to shutter its economy with panicked lockdowns that were supposed to “flatten the curve” or slow the spread of the virus and thus protect the hospitals. But Covid was politicized and the lockdowns were extended.