By Paul Craig Roberts
11/28/07 “ICH” — — Hubris and arrogance are too ensconced in Washington for policymakers to be aware of the economic policy trap in which they have placed the US economy. If the subprime mortgage meltdown is half as bad as predicted, low US interest rates will be required in order to contain the crisis. But if the dollar’s plight is half as bad as predicted, high US interest rates will be required if foreigners are to continue to hold dollars and to finance US budget and trade deficits.
Which will Washington sacrifice, the domestic financial system and over-extended homeowners or its ability to finance deficits?
The answer seems obvious. Everything will be sacrificed in order to protect Washington’s ability to borrow abroad. Without the ability to borrow abroad, Washington cannot conduct its wars of aggression, and Americans cannot continue to consume $800 billion dollars more each year than the economy produces.
A few years ago the euro was worth 85 cents. Today it is worth $1.48. This is an enormous decline in the exchange value of the US dollar. Foreigners who finance the US budget and trade deficits have experienced a huge drop in the value of their dollar holdings. The interest rate on US Treasury bonds does not come close to compensating foreigners for the decline in the value of the dollar against other traded currencies. Investment returns from real estate and equities do not offset the losses from the decline in the dollar’s value.
China holds over one trillion dollars, and Japan almost one trillion, in dollar-denominated assets. Other countries have lesser but still substantial amounts. As the US dollar is the reserve currency, the entire world’s investment portfolio is over-weighted in dollars.