The US is overextended economically and militarily and when the crunch comes, who is going to bail the country out? Commentary by former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts.

 

Crude oil for April delivery hit US$110 per barrel. The US dollar fell to a new low against the Euro. It now takes $1.55 to purchase one Euro.

These new highs against the dollar are the ongoing story of the collapse of the US dollar as world reserve currency and corresponding collapse of American power.

Each new decision from the insane Bush Regime pushes the dollar a little further along to oblivion. The same Fed announcement that boosted the stock market on March 11 sent the dollar reeling and the price of oil up. The Fed's announcement that it and other central banks are going to deal with the derivative crisis by monetizing $200 billion of the troubled instruments signaled more dollar inflation.

Each new decision from the insane Bush Regime pushes the dollar a little further along to oblivion.

Of course, something needed to be done to forestall an implosion of the financial system, but a less costly alternative was at hand. The mark-to-market rule could have been suspended in order to halt the forced sale and write down of assets and to provide time in which to sort out derivative values, which are higher than the fire sale prices.

More pressure on the dollar resulted from the decision to award the European company, Airbus, a $40 billion contract that could reach $100 billion to build US Air Force tankers. In simple terms, that means another $40 to $100 billion added to the US trade deficit, and a loss of $40 to $100 billion in US Gross Domestic Product and associated jobs.

Of course, the Bush Regime had to award the contract to Europe as a payoff for Europe's support of the Bush Regime's wars of aggression in the Middle East. Europe is not going to provide Bush with diplomatic cover for his wars and NATO troops for his war in Afghanistan without a payoff.

Here is the picture: The US economy, which has been kept alive by enormous debt expansion that has over-reached its limit, is falling into recession. The traditional way out by expanding the supply of money and credit is blocked by the impaired banking system, the levels of consumer debt, the collapsing value of the US dollar, and rising inflation.

Europe is not going to provide Bush with diplomatic cover for his wars and NATO troops for his war in Afghanistan without a payoff.

The Bush Regime is attempting to bypass the stalled credit expansion by sending Americans $600 checks, money that will mainly be used to reduce existing credit card debt and not to fund new consumption.

The US is dependent on foreigners not only for energy but also for manufactured goods and advanced technology products. The US is dependent on foreigners to finance our consumption of $800 billion annually more than the US produces. The US is dependent on foreigners to finance its red ink wars, and the US government's budget deficit is now expanding as tax revenues decline with the declining economy.

The bottom line: US power is enfeebled. US power depends on the willingness of foreigners to finance our wars and on the willingness of foreigners to continue to accumulate depreciating dollar assets.

The US cannot close its trade deficit. Oil prices are rising, and offshore production of goods and services for US markets results in a dollar-for-dollar increase in imports, while reducing the supply of domestic goods available for export.

The bottom line: US power is enfeebled. US power depends on the willingness of foreigners to finance our wars and on the willingness of foreigners to continue to accumulate depreciating dollar assets.

The US cannot close its budget deficit while it is squandering vast sums on wars that serve no US purpose, handing out $150 billion in red ink rebates, and falling into recession.

US living standards, which have been stagnant for years, will plummet once dollar decline forces China off the dollar peg. So far prices of the Chinese made goods on Wal-Mart shelves have not risen, because the Chinese currency, pegged to the dollar, falls in value with the dollar. In a word, tottering US living standards are being supported by China's willingness to subsidize US consumption by keeping its currency grossly undervalued.

The US is overextended economically and militarily, just as was Great Britain with the fall of France in the opening days of World War II. The British had the Americans to bail them out. After the chewing gum and bailing wire patch-ups are exhausted, who is going to bail us out?

Note: Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is credited with curing stagflation and eliminating "Phillips curve" trade-offs between employment and inflation, an achievement now on the verge of being lost by the worst economic mismanagement in US history. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Other articles by Paul Craig Roberts:
No Jobs For The New Economy Or The Old
The Lies At The End Of The American Dream
America's Days Of Reckoning
Supermodel Spurns The Dollar
The Wages Of Hegemony
Hypocrisy Rules The West
American Economy, R.I.P.
The War Criminal In The Living Room

More War On The Horizon
China Is Not The Problem
China's Threat To The Dollar Is Real
In The Hole To China
A Free Press Or A Ministry Of Truth?




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March 18, 2008
 

Watching The Dollar Die

By Paul Craig Roberts

I've been watching the dollar die all my life. I sometimes think I will outlast it.

When I was a young man, gold was US$35 an ounce. Today one ounce gold bullion coins, such as the Canadian Maple Leaf, cost more than $1,000.

Our coinage was silver. Our dimes, quarters, and half dollars had purchasing power. Even the nickel could purchase a candy bar, ice cream cone or soft drink, and a penny could purchase bubble gum or hard candy. If a kid could collect 5 discarded soft drink bottles from a construction site, the 2 cents deposit on the returnable bottles was enough for the Saturday afternoon movie. Gasoline was 32 cents a gallon. A dollar's worth was enough for a Saturday night date.  

Our silver coinage was 90 per cent silver. People sometimes melted coins in order to make silver spoons, known as coin silver, which can still be found in antique shops. Except for the reduced silver (40 per cent) Kennedy half dollar which continued until 1970, 1964 was the last year of America's silver coinage. The copper penny departed in 1982. As Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, I opposed the demise of America's last commodity money, but I couldn't prevent the copper penny's death.

During World War II (1941-1945), nickel was diverted from coinage to war, and the US mint issued a wartime silver (35 per cent) nickel.

It is not easy to find items to purchase with today's US coins, but the silver coins of the same face value still have purchasing power. The 10 cent piece of my youth contains $1.42 worth of silver at today's silver price. The quarter is worth $3.55, and the half dollar contains $7.10 of silver. The silver dollar is worth 15.2 times its face value.

These are just the silver values of coins that might be worth far more depending on condition and rarity. The silver in the wartime nickel is worth $1.10, which is 22 times the coin's face value. Even the copper penny is worth 2.5 cents.

When I was a young man enjoying travels in Europe, the German mark or Swiss franc traded four to one US dollar. The euro, which is today's equivalent to the mark or franc, costs $1.55.  

People who haven't accumulated much age have little idea of the corrosive power of "acceptable" inflation. Unlike gold and silver, fiat money has no intrinsic value. When money is created faster than goods and services it drives up prices, thus driving down the value of the money.

If freely traded currencies are excessively printed or if inflation, budget deficits, and trade deficits drive currencies off their fixed exchange rates, prices of imports rise as the foreign exchange value of the currency falls.

Today the US, heavily dependent on imports, is subject to double-barrel inflation from both domestic money creation and decline in the dollar's foreign exchange value.  

The US inflation rate is about twice as high as the government's inflation measures report. In order to hold down Social Security payments, the government changed the way it measures inflation. In the old measure, inflation measured the nominal cost of a defined standard of living.

If the price of steak rose, up went the inflation rate. Today if the price of steak rises, the government assumes that people switch to hamburger. Inflation doesn't go up. Instead, the standard of living it measures goes down.

This is just one of the many ways that the government pulls the wool over our eyes.

With the dollar value of the euro rising through the roof, today a vacation in Europe is far more costly than in the past. Thanks to China, so far Americans have been sheltered from the greatest effects of the dollar's declining value.

Our greatest trade deficit is with China. The prices of the goods from China have not risen, because China keeps its currency pegged to the dollar. As the dollar goes down, China's currency goes with it, thus holding down price rises.

The resignation of Admiral William Fallon as US military commander in the Middle East probably signals a Bush Regime attack on Iran. Fallon said that there would be no US attack on Iran on his watch. As there was no reason for Fallon to resign, it is not farfetched to conclude that Bush has removed an obstacle to war with Iran.

The US is already over stretched both militarily and economically. An attack on Iran is likely to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.