The U.S. and the world's economy ... your future ... are all balanced perilously on a knife's edge. The crisis is debt and derivatives, the financialization of the global economy. In 2007-2008 the economic collapse was ascribed to the implosion of subprime mortgages; the severity of that disaster as we know now was because of CDOs, Credit Default Swaps and all nature of derivative 'bets' made by "too big to fail" banks.
The crisis that may very well be looming before us is similarly based -- and the main culprit is a derivative wager called the 'Interest Rate Swap'.
All of us average people understand that because interest rates are near zero that putting your savings in a 'savings account' or a Certificate of Deposit is essentially counterproductive -- the rate of inflation is higher than the interest you can earn.
But for those who pay attention to economic issues it also explains why this circumstances cannot change. The United States federal government under Presidents Bush and Obama and Republican and Democratic Congresses have run-up enormous annual deficits and more than doubled the government's total debt. The main reason this condition has remained even somewhat stable is because the deficits now carry with them near zero interest charges.
What will happen when lenders (buyers of U.S. Treasury bonds) decide that there is sufficient risk that a higher interest rate is required? Will the 'Interest Rate Swap' derivatives market begin to unravel? Will that scenario portend the final collapse of the 'modern' economy as we have known it for the past 100 years?
It is complicated and difficult to understand, but the articles linked to below offer some explanation for the predicament in which we find ourselves.
I encourage you to read the entire essay by Paul Craig Roberts; I have included excerpts here to induce your curiosity.
Ever since the beginning of the financial crisis and quantitative easing, the question has been before us: How can the Federal Reserve maintain zero interest rates for banks and negative real interest rates for savers and bond holders when the US government is adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt every year via its budget deficits? Not long ago the Fed announced that it was going to continue this policy for another 2 or 3 years. Indeed, the Fed is locked into the policy. Without the artificially low interest rates, the debt service on the national debt would be so large that it would raise questions about the US Treasury’s credit rating and the viability of the dollar, and the trillions of dollars in Interest Rate Swaps and other derivatives would come unglued. ...
Now we have arrived at the nitty and gritty. The small percentage of Americans who are aware and informed are puzzled why the banksters have escaped with their financial crimes without prosecution. The answer might be that the banks “too big to fail” are adjuncts of Washington and the Federal Reserve in maintaining the stability of the dollar and Treasury bond markets in the face of an untenable Fed policy.
Let us first look at how the big banks can keep the interest rates on Treasuries low, below the rate of inflation, despite the constant increase in US debt as a percent of GDP–thus preserving the Treasury’s ability to service the debt.
The imperiled banks too big to fail have a huge stake in low interest rates and the success of the Fed’s policy. The big banks are positioned to make the Fed’s policy a success. JPMorgan Chase and other giant-sized banks can drive down Treasury interest rates and, thereby, drive up the prices of bonds, producing a rally, by selling Interest Rate Swaps (IRSwaps).
A financial company that sells IRSwaps is selling an agreement to pay floating interest rates for fixed interest rates. The buyer is purchasing an agreement that requires him to pay a fixed rate of interest in exchange for receiving a floating rate. ...
Fed chairman Bernanke has spoken of an “exit strategy” and said that when inflation threatens, he can prevent the inflation by taking the money back out of the banking system. However, he can do that only by selling Treasury bonds, which means interest rates would rise. A rise in interest rates would threaten the derivative structure, cause bond losses, and raise the cost of both private and public debt service. In other words, to prevent inflation from debt monetization would bring on more immediate problems than inflation. Rather than collapse the system, wouldn’t the Fed be more likely to inflate away the massive debts?
Eventually, inflation would erode the dollar’s purchasing power and use as the reserve currency, and the US government’s credit worthiness would waste away. However, the Fed, the politicians, and the financial gangsters would prefer a crisis later rather than sooner. Passing the sinking ship on to the next watch is preferable to going down with the ship oneself. As long as interest rate swaps can be used to boost Treasury bond prices, and as long as naked shorts of bullion can be used to keep silver and gold from rising in price, the false image of the US as a safe haven for investors can be perpetuated.
However, the $230,000,000,000,000 in derivative bets by US banks might bring its own surprises. JPMorgan Chase has had to admit that its recently announced derivative loss of $2 billion is more than that. How much more remains to be seen. According to the Comptroller of the Currency http://www.occ.treas.gov/topics/capital-markets/financial-markets/trading/derivatives/dq411.pdf the five largest banks hold 95.7% of all derivatives. The five banks holding $226 trillion in derivative bets are highly leveraged gamblers. For example, JPMorgan Chase has total assets of $1.8 trillion but holds $70 trillion in derivative bets, a ratio of $39 in derivative bets for every dollar of assets. Such a bank doesn’t have to lose very many bets before it is busted. ...
It is difficult to imagine a more reckless and unstable position for a bank to place itself in, but Goldman Sachs takes the cake. That bank’s $44 trillion in derivative bets is covered by only $19 billion in risk-based capital, resulting in bets 2,295 times larger than the capital that covers them.
Bets on interest rates comprise 81% of all derivatives. These are the derivatives that support high US Treasury bond prices despite massive increases in US debt and its monetization.
US banks’ derivative bets of $230 trillion, concentrated in five banks, are 15.3 times larger than the US GDP. A failed political system that allows unregulated banks to place uncovered bets 15 times larger than the US economy is a system that is headed for catastrophic failure. As the word spreads of the fantastic lack of judgment in the American political and financial systems, the catastrophe in waiting will become a reality. ... Read the article!