Druckenmiller Calls Out The Treasury Ponzi Scheme: "It's Not A Free Market, It's Not A Clean Market", Identifies The Real Bond Threat
We hadn't heard much from legendary investor Stanley Druckenmiller since last August when he decided to shut down his Duquesne Capital hedge fund. Until today. In a must read interview, the man who took on the Bank of England in 1992 and won, says that he join the camp of Bill Gross et al, making it all too clear that all the recent fearmongering about the lack of a debt ceiling hike by the likes of Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and, of course, all of Wall Street, is misplaced, and that the real threat to the country is the continuation of the current profligate pathway of endless spending. From the WSJ: "Mr. Druckenmiller had already recognized that the government had
embarked on a long-term march to financial ruin. So he publicly opposed
the hysterical warnings from financial eminences, similar to those we
hear today. He recalls that then-Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin
warned that if the political stand-off forced the government to delay a
debt payment, the Treasury bond market would be impaired for 20 years. "Excuse me? Russia had a real
default and two or three years later they had all-time low interest
rates," says Mr. Druckenmiller. In the future, he says, "People aren't
going to wonder whether 20 years ago we delayed an interest payment for
six days. They're going to wonder whether we got our house in order." Which begs the question: if interest rates are so low today, is the market not appreciating the current path of "financial ruin"? And here is where Druckenmiller joins the Grosses and the Granthams of the world. Asked if the future is not so bad judging by today's low bond rates he says, "Complete nonsense. It's not a free market. It's not a clean market." The Federal Reserve is doing much of the buying of Treasury bonds lately through its "quantitative easing" (QE) program, he points out. "The market isn't saying anything about the future. It's saying there's a phony buyer of $19 billion of Treasurys a week." Of course, there is another name for this type of arrangement and so far only Bill Gross has used it: Ponzi Scheme.
More from the interview:
The moment couldn't be better to consult Mr. Druckenmiller, who almost never gives interviews but is willing to speak up now because he thinks that fears about using the debt-limit as a bargaining chip for spending cuts are overblown—and misunderstand the bond market. "The Treasury borrowing committee letter speaks about catastrophic financial crises, comparing it to Fannie and Freddie. That's not what we're talking about here," he says.
He contemplates the possibilities for bond investors if a drawn-out negotiation in Washington creates a short-term problem in servicing the debt but ultimately reduces spending:
"Here are your two options: piece of paper number one—let's just call it a 10-year Treasury. So I own this piece of paper. I get an income stream obviously over 10 years . . . and one of my interest payments is going to be delayed, I don't know, six days, eight days, 15 days, but I know I'm going to get it. There's not a doubt in my mind that it's not going to pay, but it's going to be delayed. But in exchange for that, let's suppose I know I'm going to get massive cuts in entitlements and the government is going to get their house in order so my payments seven, eight, nine, 10 years out are much more assured," he says.
Then there's "piece of paper number two," he says, under a scenario in which the debt limit is quickly raised to avoid any possible disruption in payments. "I don't have to wait six, eight, or 10 days for one of my many payments over 10 years. I get it on time. But we're going to continue to pile up trillions of dollars of debt and I may have a Greek situation on my hands in six or seven years. Now as an owner, which piece of paper do I want to own? To me it's a no-brainer. It's piece of paper number one."
Why the efficient market would mcuh rather the government take its medicine and actually offer people like him a viable investment option instead of merely a Fed frontrunning scheme:
Mr. Druckenmiller says that markets know the difference between a default in which a country will not repay its debts and a technical default, in which investors may have to wait a short period for a particular interest payment. Under the second scenario, he doubts that investors such as the Chinese government would sell their Treasury debt and take losses on the way out—"because I'll guarantee you people like me will buy it immediately."
Now suppose, Mr. Druckenmiller adds, that he's wrong. If the market implodes on day two of the technical default, Mr. Obama and Congress would be motivated to finally come to agreement. But he doesn't expect such market chaos. "My guess is that the bond market would rally as long as it believed the ultimate outcome was going to be genuine entitlement reform—that we wouldn't even have to find out about a meltdown because it wouldn't happen. And I have some history on my side here."
On why everyone should ignore threats of untold destruction unless the adminstration and Wall Street apparatchiks get their way:
Mr. Druckenmiller had already recognized that the government had embarked on a long-term march to financial ruin. So he publicly opposed the hysterical warnings from financial eminences, similar to those we hear today. He recalls that then-Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin warned that if the political stand-off forced the government to delay a debt payment, the Treasury bond market would be impaired for 20 years.
"Excuse me? Russia had a real default and two or three years later they had all-time low interest rates," says Mr. Druckenmiller. In the future, he says, "People aren't going to wonder whether 20 years ago we delayed an interest payment for six days. They're going to wonder whether we got our house in order."
The real MAD, Druckenmiller says, is letting the debt spiral out of control. As anyone with half a working brain will realize.
Mr. Druckenmiller is puzzled that so many financial commentators see
the possible failure to raise the debt ceiling as more serious than the
possibility that the government will accumulate too much debt. "I'm just
flabbergasted that we're getting all this commentary about catastrophic
consequences, including from the chairman of the Federal Reserve, about
this situation but none of these guys bothered to write letters or
whatever about the real situation which is we're piling up trillions of
dollars of debt."
He's particularly puzzled that Mr.
Geithner and others keep arguing that spending shouldn't be cut, and yet
the White House has ruled out reform of future entitlement
liabilities—the one spending category Mr. Druckenmiller says you can cut
without any near-term impact on the economy.
Next we move to the topic of the US ponzi and why the Fed is at its core.
Some have argued that since investors are still willing to lend to the Treasury at very low rates, the government's financial future can't really be that bad. "Complete nonsense," Mr. Druckenmiller responds. "It's not a free market. It's not a clean market." The Federal Reserve is doing much of the buying of Treasury bonds lately through its "quantitative easing" (QE) program, he points out. "The market isn't saying anything about the future. It's saying there's a phony buyer of $19 billion of Treasurys a week."
Warming to the topic, he asks, "When do you generally get action from governments? When their bond market blows up." But that isn't happening now, he says, because the Fed is "aiding and abetting" the politicians' "reckless behavior."
And blow up they will if nothing changes. Druckenmiller's conclusion:
"I think technical default would be horrible," he says from the 24th
floor of his midtown Manhattan office, "but I don't think it's going to
be the end of the world. It's not going to be catastrophic. What's going
to be catastrophic is if we don't solve the real problem," meaning
Washington's spending addiction.
Well that's wonderful. And we are confident Madoff also had comparable thoughts just shortly before his scheme imploded. However, for him, like for the US, it is now too late. The best option is to actually get out of Washington's way so they destroy the status quo as fast as possible and a fresh (and probably very violent) start is implemented.
The rest is rhetoric.