Niall Ferguson: If The Obama Administration Listens To Paul Krugman It Would Lead To An Imminent Debt Crisis
In an interview with Bloomberg TV's Erik Shatzker, Niall Ferguson picks up where Reinhart and Rogoff leave off. The historian discusses the bond vigilantes, "Bond vigilantes are a bit like the people short selling investment banks a couple of years ago. You start with Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, you don't get to Goldman Sachs until quite late in the game. In a way the sovereign debtors of the western world are pretty much in that position today. And we are working down the list, starting with Greece, moving on to Spain and Portugal, the UK dodged the bullet by implementing some preemptive measures. Sooner or later the bond vigilantes will get to the US, I don't think it will be this year, but in the absence of any political will to address this problem, this is simply an inevitability." As to why it is inevitable, Ferguson observes the case of the UK which was the only one to manage to grow its way out of massive debt load: "Britain after 1815 had two big advantages, it had the only the industrial revolution at that point that was going on in the word and had the world's biggest empire. I don't see anyone in that happy position today." The outlook: "Is it going to be inflation or is it going to be default. Right now there is no sign of inflation. We have monetary contraction at an alarming rate, and zero inflation in terms of core CPI, so the option of inflating this debt away doesn't seem to be there right now. What you are left with is therefore default. And I think it is a fair bet that US will default at least on the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare at some point in the foreseeable future. What the Greeks discovered you are fine until you are not fine with the bond market and if you have a non-credible fiscal strategy of borrowing a $1 tillion a year for the rest of time, never ever again running a balanced budget, at some point the markets are going to get spooked, and I think that point is nearer than Paul Krugman believes. Nothing would spook the markets more than for Paul Krugman's advice to be accepted by the Obama administration. That might well be the trigger."