Coming To America: The Greek Sovereign Debt Crisis

Tyler Durden's picture

Yesterday we presented our views on why Europe's decision to tip over the first of the bailout dominoes will be inherently a catastrophic one in the long term, and will ultimately transfer the peripheral liquidity risk into funding, and ultimately, solvency (and once again, liquidity) risk to the very core. Today, Niall Ferguson joins in, in this latest Op-Ed in the Financial Times. "It began in Athens. It is spreading to Lisbon and Madrid. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding will remain confined to the weaker eurozone economies. For this is more than just a Mediterranean problem with a farmyard acronym. It is a fiscal crisis of the western world. Its ramifications are far more profound than most investors currently appreciate." In other words, Marc Faber 1, CNBC talking heads, 0... as usual.

Ferguson lists the current dead ends presented before the EU:

There is of course a distinctive feature to the eurozone crisis.
Because of the way the European Monetary Union was designed, there is
in fact no mechanism for a bail-out of the Greek government by the
European Union, other member states or the European Central Bank
(articles 123 and 125 of the Lisbon treaty). True, Article 122
may be invoked by the European Council to assist a member state that is
“seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural
disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control”, but at this
point nobody wants to pretend that Greece’s yawning deficit was an act
of God. Nor is there a way for Greece to devalue its currency, as it
would have done in the pre-EMU days of the drachma. There is not even a
mechanism for Greece to leave the eurozone.

The options are no surprise to anyone who has followed this drama as it has unfolded over the past two months, starting with the Dubai implosion in late November (whose CDS, incidentally, is almost back to all time wides). It is certainly no surprise to anyone who, like us, has been concerned about the sovereign implosion almost a year ago.

That leaves just three possibilities: one of the most excruciating
fiscal squeezes in modern European history – reducing the deficit from
13 per cent to 3 per cent of gross domestic product within just three
years; outright default on all or part of the Greek government’s debt;
or (most likely, as signalled by German officials on Wednesday) some kind of bail-out led by Berlin.
Because none of these options is very appealing, and because any
decision about Greece will have implications for Portugal, Spain and
possibly others, it may take much horse-trading before one can be

To be sure, Keynesianism is starting to unravel. The greatest failed experiment in economic history could only have been propped up for so long, courtesy of its core beneficiaries: the very oligarchs and financiers who transferred wealth over the ages from the working class to the "financially creative" product class (i.e., those that "packaged" and managed risk...look where they got us, but don't look how much they got paid for it).

What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no
such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not “save” us half
so much as monetary policy – zero interest rates plus quantitative
easing – did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed
“multiplier”) has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped.
Second, there is a good deal of “leakage” from open economies in a
globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur
bills that fall due much sooner than we expect

For the world’s
biggest economy, the US, the day of reckoning still seems reassuringly
remote. The worse things get in the eurozone, the more the US dollar
rallies as nervous investors park their cash in the “safe haven” of
American government debt. This effect may persist for some months, just
as the dollar and Treasuries rallied in the depths of the banking panic
in late 2008.

Yet even a casual look at the fiscal position of
the federal government (not to mention the states) makes a nonsense of
the phrase “safe haven”. US government debt is a safe haven the way
Pearl Harbor was a safe haven in 1941.

Even according to the
White House’s new budget projections, the gross federal debt in public
hands will exceed 100 per cent of GDP in just two years’ time. This
year, like last year, the federal deficit will be around 10 per cent of
GDP. The long-run projections of the Congressional Budget Office
suggest that the US will never again run a balanced budget. That’s
right, never.

This is where shades or Reinhart and Rogoff emerge.

Explosions of public debt hurt economies in the following way, as
numerous empirical studies have shown. By raising fears of default
and/or currency depreciation ahead of actual inflation, they push up
real interest rates. Higher real rates, in turn, act as drag on growth,
especially when the private sector is also heavily indebted – as is the
case in most western economies, not least the US.

As we approach the proverbial endgame, the biggest supporter and enactor of flawed Keynesian policy, the Fed, is fast running out of bullets. Simply without the consumer becoming once again intimiately involved with the lie, the game can not continue.

Although the US household savings rate has risen since the Great
Recession began, it has not risen enough to absorb a trillion dollars
of net Treasury issuance a year. Only two things have thus far stood
between the US and higher bond yields: purchases of Treasuries (and
mortgage-backed securities, which many sellers essentially swapped for
Treasuries) by the Federal Reserve and reserve accumulation by the
Chinese monetary authorities.

But now the Fed is phasing out such
purchases and is expected to wind up quantitative easing. Meanwhile,
the Chinese have sharply reduced their purchases of Treasuries from
around 47 per cent of new issuance in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2008 to an
estimated 5 per cent last year. Small wonder Morgan Stanley assumes
that 10-year yields will rise from around 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent
this year. On a gross federal debt fast approaching $1,500bn, that
implies up to $300bn of extra interest payments – and you get up there
pretty quickly with the average maturity of the debt now below 50

The conclusion, knowing all too well that our political and financial leaders will do everything in their power, even sacrifice the population, to prevent the collapse of the system, can only be a rhetorical one.

The Obama administration’s new budget blithely assumes real GDP growth
of 3.6 per cent over the next five years, with inflation averaging 1.4
per cent. But with rising real rates, growth might well be lower. Under
those circumstances, interest payments could soar as a share of federal
revenue – from a tenth to a fifth to a quarter.

Last week Moody’s Investors Service warned that the triple A credit
rating of the US should not be taken for granted. That warning recalls
Larry Summers’ killer question (posed before he returned to
government): “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the
world’s biggest power?”

On reflection, it is appropriate that the
fiscal crisis of the west has begun in Greece, the birthplace of
western civilization. Soon it will cross the channel to Britain. But
the key question is when that crisis will reach the last bastion of
western power, on the other side of the Atlantic.

America no longer has the luxury of expecting that shoving its head in the sand long enough will fix everything. Indeed, we now live in a world where whole developed countries are being bailed out. A mere 3 years ago this would have sounded ludicrous and deranged, and now it causes a flurry of buying excitement in the stock market. Unfortunately, a repeat of the days of September 2008 is fast approaching, only this time absent Marsians coming to bail out the world, we are on our own.

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VegasBD's picture

When can we start openly burning Keynesian books?

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Do it in front of an economics "Professor".  The looks on their faces are priceless!

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Just say "Reinhart and Rogoff" to those arrogant Professor Schmucks of economics.  Like waving a silver cross at the vampires.

I really do not understand why .gov and even the financial PTB are not alarmed by our grave situation.  Nor is anyone among TPTB ready to cut spending!  That would be the key to our revival, CHOP spending and chop it hard.

Such a great country we have/had.  Why can't our leaders do what is required before the wheels come off, and we have our train wreck?

Maybe I'll go back to screaming that we should all buy gold again, pity that some of my fellow gold guys are layin' low lately.

Gold...Bitches's picture

not me.  i hope they do flow into the dollar and gold goes down in the reflexive trade.  lets me buy more for cheaper.  gold is going higher, much higher, by the end of this game

Master Bates's picture

That's what happens when you know you bought an asset at the top (IE fucked up) and were the most vocal and loudest about it.

e_goldstein's picture

Probably about the same time we are burning FEDRES bills to keep warm.

A Broken Bear's picture

Quality...You see, its comments like these (plus the dam good reading ZH offers) that made me join the ZH community.

jeff montanye's picture

keynesian in the article above should be in quotes.  the deficit spending, in boom times and bust, that characterizes much of western society in the last forty years and certainly the siphoning of wealth from the bottom to the top of society via the state are nothing like what keynes advocated.  he was a cogent and prescient geopolitical observer (who predicted, in published detail, how the armistice that ended ww1 would bankrupt germany via hyperinflation and produce a greater war when a new generation of soldiers could be grown), wrote the most important book on economics in the last century (the general theory of employment, interest and money) and was an extremely astute and profitable investor for himself and his alma mater.

ghostfaceinvestah's picture

Let's break this down to its most basic level - the pure fiat currency system is failing, and will fail completely soon.

VegasBD's picture

We are most deffinately living in intersting times.

Id like to say that Im a patriot and will help take this country back from the govt and rebuild from the rubble...but honestly ill be way deep in Mexico drinkin margaritas. Paying for them in silver probably. =)

RobotTrader's picture

Meanwhile, Riverboaters are starting to "front run" a positive resolution to this mess by buying junker stocks like this:



hidingfromhelis's picture

The decimal point on the share price is a couple/few places too far right.  But then again, those penny stocks are vulnerable to pump & dump scenarios.

bulldung's picture

Really,Why? Technicals or does AIG benefit from Greecey bailot?

Anonymous's picture

I loaded up with all I could buy when it crossed the moving avg. Classic buy signal.

dark pools of soros's picture

"even sacrifice the population"   9/11 only saved the dollar a decade eh?

Anonymous's picture

Truthers in this forum. who'da thunk it?

Dark Helmet's picture

When the Soviet American empire collapses, it will be common knowledge that 9/11 was either ignored and allowed to happen or there was actually some involvement at some level. Lots of stuff became common knowledge when the USSR collapsed.

So clap comrade! Keep clapping for Premier Bush... err... Obama of the Republicrat Party!


andy55's picture

As a former US navy submarine LT with top secret/SCI clearance that served from 99 to 04 on a 688i in the Persian Gulf, I've always been skeptical of 9/11 being an inside job on the basis that the government is basically inept and inefficient at everything.  I generally regarded it as impossible for the government to plan an operation like that with that many moving parts in complete secrecy.

That said, someone linked to the 'second edition' of "Loose Change" the other day and I thought I'd give it another try.  I was never that moved by the original version, but I have to admit that the second edition is significantly more convincing, both in terms of organization and evidence.  Granted, there's circumstantial evidence all over the place, but then again there's a enough evidence to paint a picture that stands very well on its own (which I did not feel after seeing the original cut).

For those interested in the 'second edition':

moneymutt's picture

I've said before, I don't buy all truther stuff, but there is very little to convince me that it's definitively wrong, and lots of stuff that fits insider story more than MSM story..

also on the incompetence seems there are two tracks, but we have seen in history very involved shadow stuff going on that only later got exposed only by some accident of some such...I believe it was a crashed helicopter and some guy singing like a bird at that point that lead to the whole  exposure of the Iran/Contra arms to terrorist, drugs flown into Homestead AFB and sold in domestically in US by CIA contractors...eventually linking to the sudden explosion of crack epidemic...these are all facts in multiple court case sworn testimony, Reagan even admitted to the facts of selling arms for hostages but denied/ compartmentalized this as not being what it was. So what if the helicopter had not crashed, would Oli North be a general by now? Think how many people were involved in this massive conspiracy, people negotiating arms deal, people funding contras, people bringing drugs into use, people negotiating have many people in many people countries doing this, and we only found out when helicopter crashed.

And notice how something really outrageous and controversial as independent companies that work for our govt smuggling drugs into a US AFB, arms for hostage, negotiating with terrorists not even hardly in our political memory, you don't hear people constantly beating on Reagan admin about this stain on their historic record etc...its because MSM does not bang on it.

Also, I think we have plenty of examples in ordinary life of many many people knowing something and it still not being in MSM, once again, because of a crash....Tiger Woods sex life. If it is so damn hard to keep a secret in the Internet age, how is it that perhaps 1000s of people knew definitively TW was a major many mistresses, many golfers on the tour, his friends, the friends and family of his mistresses, many media types, many random people that must have seen something etc...shoot, he wasn't even trying to hide things much, leaving a crumb  trail of texts etc..So what if stakes are higher, what if people doing the hiding are richer, more powerful than many people could know something and it still no be known to general population of US. And even when outrageous stuff get exposed and no one can refute credible sources, if they are not picked up by MSM, its like no one exposed anything.

See Sibel Edmonds...whose biggest coverage in media so far is an article in Hustler....even tho no one can credibly refute her sworn testimony.

Did you know this fact, the Bush family was close friends with the family of Reagan's attempted assassin, Hinckley? Did you know W's brother Neil was scheduled to have dine with a Hinckley's brother in Denver day of attempted assassination. This is all facts report in MSM media. May just be bizarre coincident but if Reagan dies, Bush is president, so why is this story common knowledge among US one refuted facts of story...story just died of inattention....again, open secrets... 

Finally this "govt is so incompetent" is ALWAYS the excuse they use when they trash something...we could never have foreseen a hurricane hitting NOLA, never foreseen  terrorist in planes, never foreseen financial crash... yada yada...the schtick is: look stupid, have regular govt do poorly, while you, shadow elite people, make out like bandits due to your access, insider info, ability to pull a few levers and easily manipulate just about anything...

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Well, guys, I am with Andy55 on this one, at least the bit about government incompetence and inability to keep secrets.

I had Top Secret / TK clearance at one of the alphabet soups.

Something like "the government / Bush / whatever did it" would be so big with so many in the know that it is clear to me to be highly unlikely.

Anonymous's picture

Not refuting your experience, but I tend believe that there are always two version of those "alphabet soups" - one that generally is there as an arm of "actual" government (usually very large, unwieldy and bureaucratic - such that incompetence and inefficacy is allow to run writ large) and another which is an arm of a much smaller and much more constant group of people - Kissengers and the like. The latter is very well connected and very well protected; when anyone in that group looks like stepping out of line its curtains! So not so surprising that knowledge rarely comes out and when it does is immediately spun (think Iraq war Niger documents) and forgotten about.

The other thing I don't understand about your line of reasoning is that apparently for the .gov to carry out this operation would involve an enormous number of people but for a bunch of long bearded freaks in a global complete backwater with nary semblance of modern infrastructure its totally doable. Holding both ideas in your head as true seems to me like lunacy.

velobabe's picture

your heavy, good thing your man's best friend. we all know pure white woman don't enjoy sex. TW, god i miss you babe.

Dark Helmet's picture

I lean toward what in the "truther" community is called "LIHOP" which stands for "Let It Happen On Purpose." I think there were warnings, and sometimes they were missed out of incompetence. However, sometimes they were also missed because I strongly suspect some people thought "hey, you know... we can really use this! we've been looking for another cold war!"

I also think some of the "truthers" are nuts. In some ways they're helping whatever cover-up exists by distracting people with insane out-there explanations. Instead, the questions to ask are things like "who is Osama bin Laden and what's his back story" and "what was Mohammed Atta doing in this country?"


moneymutt's picture

good points and I tend to agree, crotch bomber could easily be LIHOP...once again govt looks totally incompetent...but are they really that bad..State Dept guys said US was not going to give crotch bomber visa, but CIA told them to cause they were tracking him...then there is the Indian guy trying to get him on with no passport, no video from airport etc....

Lord Blankcheck's picture

In the history of aviation how many "BlacK Boxes" were not recovered?


All four are missing from that day

Anonymous's picture

Dear Lord Blankcheck,

I used to work at Honeywell in the avionics group (in Redmond, WA) that builds the "black box". The flight data that is stored in the box is actually saved to ePROM chips (flash eraseable electrically programmable read-only-memory chips) that are much the same as what we all have in our digital cameras or the "thumb drives" we use to back up our computers. In the flight data recorders (black boxes) these chips are encased in a large quantity of a special wax and placed in a heavy duty metal case as a sort of armor. The "black box" is physically located in the tail of the aircraft because, in the event of a crash, that area typically receives the least force of impact and also might not be in the center of the aviation fuel fire that usually goes along with a crash.

If all goes well, the box will survive a "typical" crash mechanically (that is, it will not be crushed); then, if a fire occurs, it can survive that for a while because the special wax absorbs a large amount of heat as it melts and then vaporizes to a gas. So as the wax melts and vaporizes, it keeps the memory chips cool enough to survive and retain their data.

Qualification test units of the black boxes must pass a "fire test" in which they sit for an hour and half (if I remember correctly) in a fire that is supposed to simulate a fuel fire after a crash. The units would probably still be readable after sitting in the flames of your gas fireplace for 90 minutes. But, once the wax has all boiled away, the temperature of the memory chips will rise to a level of a thousand degrees or so and will be destroyed.

Of course on 9/11, those aircraft that flew into the World Trade buildings sat in flames from thousands of gallons of jet fuel until the structure of the building itself (steel and concrete) failed. Then everything was crushed to dust as the building came down.

The aircraft that crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside might have been survivable for the black box. (I don't remember.) The black box of the aircraft that was flown into the Pentagon was recovered and the the data was intact and readable, if I remember correctly.

Regards to all.

Anonymous's picture

I have a hard time buying the conspiracy theories
LT. People state that the heat wasn't intense enough
to melt steel, but they fail to realize that steel
starts loosing its strength as it heats up and therefore
didn't need to get anywhere melting temp in order
to fail under load
I think this was just a massive failure of our
intelligence services and their communications.
Same thing happened on Christmas day with the
crotch bomber, so nothing has been fixed....

Anonymous's picture

You're obviously not an engineer or physicist...

Anonymous's picture

How about that thermite they found? It just happened to be there?

Absinthe Minded's picture

I found it hard to believe this could happen in our country too. Then I watched "Loose Change", 2nd cut, and was seriously troubled by this video. If there was no editing of the film then it's hard to dispute that charges took out support members in some of the collapse footage. All the info about their mock disasters that the military were planning up to 9/11 was also very weird and coincidental. The fact that they confiscated all security tapes and released only 5 screen grabs of the Pentagon crash was very shady. If you  want to believe our government is wholesome and completely innocent, by all means do not watch this video. Not short though, 80+ minutes, but definitely interesting.

Anonymous's picture

Oh, this is nothing. Look out for the Nazi sympathisers.

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Ferguson wrote the auto biography for the is a fascinating story, worth reading every chapter.  It is two volumes. 

This pretty well sums it up.  Let the games begin!  and like always, the US pressures some one else to make the first move.  Well, Iran, do what you will.  Remember, you are toying with a country that has nothing left to lose.  At least this is the view from the Fed, who know they have lost 'Merica's wealth down the toilet.  The toilet leads to their bat cave btw. 

"To the Batcave!"  Screamed Timmy Geithner.  He ran ahead of the group making 'driving' noises with his mouth.  "VROOM!  VROOM!"  "Do I get a cape and mask?" asked Sheila Bair.  "Sorry SHEila, you have to be a boy to wear a cape and mask.  You are a girl, so you get pom poms."  Replied BS.  "Oh yeah!  Pom Poms!"  Ironically, Hank Pauslon had pom poms too.  "Hey, why does Hank have Pom Poms?" Sheila asked.  "I, I, I wha- want to be puh-puh-pretty."  said Hank, as drool dripped down his chin.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Funny, funny Mr L H.

Please feel free to let us know the name of the book on the Rothschilds, I may buy me a copy.

Anonymous's picture

How many books you guess will come up when you enter "ferguson" and "rothschild" in the search form of the online bookstore of your liking?

GoldSilverDoc's picture

We knew it all along - Keynesianism was proposed by a fellow who wanted to please his friends in government - and gain their smiles... how to do it? Propose a theory that involves lots of government spending, thus allowing the pols to blow all the cash they want to buy votes.

And it worked, for awhile. Like the Soviet Union worked, for awhile.

But you can't fool Mother Nature forever. All you folks who have paper or "numbers" in the "bank", trade it all for real things. Land (produces rent). Gold (good insurance). Do it soon. Don't think you can pull off just one more scam/trade and squeeze "just a little more" out of the system. Put 90% of it out of reach of the US tax man, and do it soon.

Be like the Boy Scout. Prepared.

dark pools of soros's picture

one play that will be interesting is when will people start yanking out their 401ks and damn the penalties??   I'm not talking about old fucks that should of already done that.  I'm saying the Gen Xers that are getting the 100% match and have a lot to lose by pulling out now and even more to lose if it all goes to shit..  


Everyone says the Gen Xers never had any power from lack of numbers..  i think a mass pull out and buying of gold/land would be a hell of a statement


GoldSilverDoc's picture

I have said it before, and I'll say it again.


All it will take is for around 5-6% of the folks with bank balances to walk into their banks and demand CASH (as in, the green crap they give you which you will someday soon use for chicken-house litter) in the same week, to end this little fiasco and put us back (after some serious pain) on the right road.

And what will gold be "priced" at?  One ounce, per ounce.  Same as the past 5000 years.



Anonymous's picture

I have thought about it. Taxes would be a killer too.
If I loose the job, I'll probably cash em out next tax
year. Sept 08 has already demonstrated that we can
loose these things, even when parked in so called
safe assets. Already have much Au and paid off
land. Would stash cashed out 401k in Au and another
10k of 7.62 Nato rounds...

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Keep thinking about cashing out.  I did (IRA) in late '08, paid penalties & taxes but have slept better ever since.

Land, Au and lead.  A worthy diversification!  Might want to keep $10,000 or so in FRNs in case we are wrong though...

e_goldstein's picture

Unfortunately, most Xers are just as oblivious as the boomers.

I hate to say that, I'm an Xer too.

dark pools of soros's picture

the intermediate play is to take as big a loan as you can against your 401k and pay off any high debt you have.. or if you dont have any, buy gold and silver


that is the only hedge I see with 401k at this point

e_goldstein's picture

Thanks, I'm all set.  I'm a firm believer in the Mogambo Guru investment strategy,

and have been for awhile.  No debt, long on booze, bullets, beans and bullion (wheee).

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

10-4 on the Mogambo's bunker startegy!

"Wheeee!  This investing stuff is easy"

Anonymous's picture

Before they start confiscating 401k's or introducing regulation that mandates a percentage of 401k's must be in US debt, I see them offering an option to take your money out penalty free. After all, they've got cronies on wall street who need a way out. They'll use the talking heads to further brainwash the public into thinking that liquidating your 401k will ruin your long term retirement. The few who understand what's going on will liquidate which will cause a short term strengthening of the dollar which will be a perfect opp to buy gold before it all goes to hell.

Anonymous's picture

When your 401k deflates in price to near zero, what's the use in cashing out?

Anonymous's picture

Thats exactly what I did, took out a loan
and bought Au, paid off the wife's credit card.
I am fairly certain though, that I will just cash them
out and take the hit, especially now with
Europe looking bad, and no one is even talking
about the eastern block countries like Hungary
with a 100 percent default rate in housing bought
in Euros...

earnyermoney's picture

Believe Mr. Soros has stated that extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions to justify his father's efforts to escape Nazi Germany.


In this context, who says you have to follow established law when you withdrawn your money? Plan accordingly

Anonymous's picture

Agree wholeheartedly.
And today Paul Krugman is trying to grow into that role!