Reuters: U.S. and UK on brink of debt disaster

Discussion in 'Economics' started by talknet, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. talknet


    January 20th, 2009-: The United States and the United Kingdom stand on the brink of the largest debt crisis in history.


    The solution must be some combination of policies to reduce the level of debt or raise nominal GDP. The simplest way to reduce debt is through bankruptcy, in which some or all of debts are deemed unrecoverable and are simply extinguished, ceasing to exist.

    Bankruptcy would ensure the cost of resolving the debt crisis falls where it belongs. Investor portfolios and pension funds would take a severe but one-time hit. Healthy businesses would survive, minus the encumbrance of debt.

    But widespread bankruptcies are probably socially and politically unacceptable. The alternative is some mechanism for refinancing debt on terms which are more favorable to borrowers (replacing short term debt at higher rates with longer-dated paper at lower ones).

    The final option is to raise nominal GDP so it becomes easier to finance debt payments from augmented cashflow. But counter-cyclical policies to sustain GDP will not be enough. Governments in both the United States and the United Kingdom need to raise nominal GDP and debt-service capacity, not simply sustain it.

    There is not much government can do to accelerate the real rate of growth. The remaining option is to tolerate, even encourage, a faster rate of inflation to improve debt-service capacity. Even more than debt nationalisation, inflation is the ultimate way to spread the costs of debt workout across the
    widest possible section of the population.

    The need to work down real debt and boost cash flow provides the motive, while the massive liquidity injections into the financial system provide the means. The stage is set for a long period of slow growth as debts are worked down and a rise in inflation in the medium term.