We Do These Things Because They're Easy: Our All-Consuming Dependence On Debt

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

A world in which "we do these things because they're easy" has one end-state: collapse.

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a famous speech announcing the national goal of going to the moon by the end of the decade. ( JFK's speech on going to the moon.) In a memorable line, Kennedy said we would pursue the many elements of the space program "not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Our national philosophy now is "we do these things because they're easy"-- and relying on debt to pay today's expenses is at the top of the list. What's easier than tapping a line of credit to buy whatever you want or need? Nothing's easier than borrowing money, especially at super-low rates of interest.

We are now totally, completely dependent on expanding debt for the maintenance of our society and economy. Every sector of the economy--households, businesses and government--all borrow vast sums just to maintain the status quo for another year.

Compare buying a new car with easy, low-interest credit and saving up to buy the car with cash. How easy is it to borrow $23,000 for a new $24,000 car? You go to the dealership, announce all you have to put down is a trade-in vehicle worth $1,000. The salesperson puts a mirror under your nose to make sure you're alive, makes sure you haven't just declared bankruptcy to stiff previous lenders, and if you pass those two tests, you qualify for a 1% rate auto loan. You sign some papers and drive off in your new car. Easy-peasy!

Scrimping and saving to pay for the new car with cash is hard. You have to save $1,000 each and every month for two years to save up the $24,000, and the only way to do that is make some extra income by working longer hours, and sacrificing numerous pleasures--being a shopaholic, going out to eat frequently, $5 coffee drinks, jetting somewhere for a long weekend, etc.

The sacrifice and discipline required are hard. What's the pay-off in avoiding debt? Not much--after all, the new auto loan payment is modest. If we take a 5-year or 7-year loan, it's even less. By borrowing $23,000, we get to keep all our fun treats and spending pleasures, and we get the new car, too.

At the corporate level, it's the same story: borrow a billion dollars and use it to buy back shares. Increasing the value of the corporation's shares by increasing profit margins and actual value is hard; boosting the share price with borrowed money is easy.

It's also the same story with politicians and the government: cutting anything is politically painful, so let's just float a bond, i.e. borrow money to pay for what was once paid out of tax revenues: maintaining parks, repaving streets, funding pensions, etc.

This dependence on expanding debt for maintaining the status quo is a global trend. Debt is exploding in China in every sector, and the same is true in other nations, developed and developing alike.

Borrowing more money from the future is easy, painless and requires no trade-offs, sacrifices or accountability--until the debt-addicted economy collapses under its own weight of debt service and insolvency. People keep repeating various versions of the story that "debt doesn't matter" because "future growth" will outgrow the skyrocketing debt, or inflation will make it all manageable, or that central banks will do whatever it takes to make sure everyone has enough money to service their debt burdens: negative interest rates, helicopter money, etc. etc. etc.

We want to believe in financial magic because we want things to remain easy. Borrowing from the future is easy, making sacrifices and being accountable is hard.

But eventually the cost of servicing even low interest-rate debt squeezes spending, eventually capital tires of chasing negative interest-rate bonds, eventually lenders realize that leverage has skyrocketed along with the debt and risk is piled up like dry tinder in a drought-weakened forest.

Central banks realize they can't even limit the expansion of their balance sheets without triggering a panic that would collapse all the debt-based contraptions and manipulated markets they've held aloft with limitless liquidity.

If you believe that going from a total debt burden (government and personal debt) per household being 79% of median household income to debt per household being 584% of median household income doesn't matter and will have no consequences, you believe in magic. Unfortunately, thinking something will be easy forever and have no consequences is not the same as the real world of skyrocketing debt and leverage having no consequences.

A world in which "we do these things because they're easy" has one end-state: collapse. Believing that debt has no consequence, that the status quo is permanent, that all the promises based on soaring debt can be paid--it's all an appealing fantasy, magical thinking at its most enchanting. Believe these fantasies at your own risk.

Comments

hedgeless_horseman Consuelo Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:10 Permalink

 Nope.  The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter One, lays it out cleary.  Also...

Jews are forbidden to use usury in dealing with fellow Jews; however, they are permitted to charge interest on loans to non-Jews.  This is outlined in the Jewish scriptures known as the Torah and other books of the Tanakh, also held by Christians to be scripture as part of the Old Testament. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury#Judaism

In reply to by Consuelo

GRDguy hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 14:38 Permalink

It's just so sad that the Abrahamic religions are based on a single lie.Abraham was the rich financial sociopath that lied about there being a covenant.A famous jew wrote "The Trial of God" and found god guilty of breaking it.He couldn't bring himself to write "The Trial of Abraham," the real guilty party.No reason to hate; just pity the folks who have been lied-to for generations and move on.

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

Sophist Economicus hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:40 Permalink

Then, of course, there is the context in which this might make sense: "All who are under the yoke of slavery should regard their masters as fully worthy of honor, so that God's name and our teaching will not be discredited." A sort of MLK version of non-violent resistance But does this context serve the pupose of the person who quotes it?    Eh HH?

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

hedgeless_horseman Sophist Economicus Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:55 Permalink

 

But does this context serve the pupose of the person who quotes it?   

Yes!  My sole purpose being to urge my neighbors to think critically, as you have done.

 “The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.”    The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863.

In reply to by Sophist Economicus

Killdo hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 12:04 Permalink

religion after all is glorified slavery, the original totalitarianism (it evolved over thousands of years and every new religion learns from teh previous one to become more exploitative and more totalitarian). It's crucial ingredient is child abuse (instead of teeaching children about reality, how not to be a victim of psychopahts, how to collabrate meaningfully with others etc) their slavish deluded parents teach them lies, BS and fear of immaginary masters  - all in order to make them obedient and slavish. In the US they also perform male genital mutulation of babies before they have any say in it - another form of child abuseAll fraud, FED, psychos in power we deal with today is based on thsi oringinal BS slavery-promoting, child abusing enforecer of fraud and lies

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

Hugh_Jorgan hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 12:15 Permalink

The reality is that no one knows who wrote the Gospels. There appear to be Pauline earmarks but there is no proper citation for authorship. Even Luke which tries, is unable to help the reader know who the author is. BTW, Mark was the first gospel and there was no immaculate conception included (and no resurrection account in the earliest manuscripts). I for one don't trust the New Testament. More than 2000 big, meaningful doctrinal differences between extant manuscripts along with the full blessing of the falling Roman empire? Sounds like a bill that they passed to see what was in it...

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

My Days Are Ge… hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 12:54 Permalink

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY129/servant-or-slaveThe King James version uses the term "servants", whereas your quote correctly uses the term "slaves". There is a big difference.  In biblical times, 1 in 5 persons in the Roman Empire were slaves.  A slave is someone else's property.  A servant is like a day laborer, who may come and go of his own choice.  A servant is not a slave.The cliche "debt slave" is preposterous. Just because you owe someone money does not mean that you are that person's property.  On the worse case basis, a debtor could be imprisioned for non-payment of debt.  That would make him a criminal, but not someone's slave.  But Cool Hand Luke may argue the point. 

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

NAV hedgeless_horseman Fri, 07/14/2017 - 13:34 Permalink

There is a supporting rule for the masters of those confined in slavery at that time in history. It is Colossians  4:1."Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in Heaven." The author of Colossians is Paul.  The letter is written to the church as Colossus . It was Jesus who set slaves free; it was his message that all -  freeman and slave -  are made in the image of God that spread like wildfire throughout the old world, setting the slave free for the first time in his heart, knowing that he was not confined to inferiority by birth or circumstances but was equal to all men in the sight of God. It was that message that built the Free World. The Israelites were chosen to be the Creator's witnesses to the world, to demonstrate how people and nations benefit by obeying God’s laws.  But they failed. God then organized millions of true Christians – a central body -- that recognizes Jesus as its head to keep and preach His word throughout the nations. It’s called the The New Testament, the new covenant. It is the church, the body of Christ.As for Christ's immaculate conception:Mark 3: 31-33 "Then Jesus' mother and brother arrived, Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him and they told him,'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.'"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked."Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are your mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.'"

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

PT Common_Law Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:23 Permalink

Before you even get that far:How do you compete against an idiot who borrows from a bankster who is bailed-out?You think you can sell cheaper?  The idiot sells cheaper and borrows moar money to make up for the short-coming.  After you go bankrupt, he and his bankster buddies buy the shell of what is left.You think you can earn more and buy at the auction?  The idiot just borrows moar and bids higher.  You either pay too much or you do without.Ever wonder why the popping of bubbles is so unpredictable?  Should be easy to figure out some kind of maximum and minimum time frame, no?  When income is less than price (or repayments), then shouldn't the bubble pop?  But the banksters can keep printing and lending to idiots for as long as they like.  Only the plebs have to make repayments.  The banksters can continue to "borrow" for as long as they like.  Therefore, the bubble pops when the right bankster DECIDES to pop the bubble.  Until then they just keep lending.  Then when they feel like popping the bubble, they simply STOP LENDING.  How does your local bank manager decide when to stop lending?  "Orders from above.  We have no more access to the money tap so we can't lend."  Orders from above?  Someone from above makes a decision and it all stops.The sheeple are there to be shorn, both on the way up and again on the way down again.There.  Now you can add your fluoride and TV and beer and other brain-destroying crapola - all play their part but are not essential to understanding the fundamental element of the story.

In reply to by Common_Law

Bryan Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:45 Permalink

Exactly.  The 'easy road' is not always the best road.  But when you have generations who have grown up with 'easy' and don't realize what 'difficult' even is, that's when hubris and arrogance and SJWs take control and collapse it all.Charles Hugh Smith and I think alot alike.

PT GlassHouse101 Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:33 Permalink

Banksters.  The banksters lend.  The banksters get bailed-out.  Who do the banksters lend to?  Who borrows?  Idiots.  Think you can go to an auction and compete against an idiot who is backed by a bailed-out bankster?The sensible people are the targets.The idiots are the bullets.The banksters wilfully aim and pull the trigger."And the beauty of our system is that there is a new customer born every minute."(- I stole that quote from an old Dilbert cartoon but I'm sure you can appreciate it's versatility.)Oh looky!  Here it is, but now I'm drifting off topic:http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-09-18

In reply to by GlassHouse101

TalkToLind Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:49 Permalink

Some of y'all bitchez have no consumer debt. And some of you have no car notes. And a few of you have no mortgage. And I salute y'all wise and prudent fuckers...particularly the ones with physical precious metals.    

Bryan TalkToLind Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:00 Permalink

I am about to pay off my mortgage in the next couple years.  Then it's debt freedom and hopefully some kind of retirement.  It's been a lot of work and salf-sacrifice to get to this point, but we're almost there.  Hopefully things don't go to hell before I can find a quiet and remote place to separate myself from the chaos.

In reply to by TalkToLind

LawsofPhysics Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:49 Permalink

The real question is why can't anyone issue debt/money?  I mean, money/debt creation hasn't required any REAL WORK/RISK or COLLATERAL for 40+ years!!!!!!! "Full Faith and Credit"....  ...get your LoP bucks now!

HuskerGirl Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:54 Permalink

And then when people get in trouble with debt, they refuse to take responsibility for it and want the government (ie the taxpayer) to bail them out. And crooked politicians are all too quick to spend other people's money to buy a large voting block of debtors.  We're hearing it about student loans, municipalities, states, and public pension funds.  They're all in debt and most expect a bailout.  

PT HuskerGirl Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:46 Permalink

You're gonna get that.  They impoverish the idiots and then wonder why they have no customers.  Well, duh!  You already scammed all the money out of them.  The only way to get moar money from them is to give it to them.  So now they have to pretend you have to work for money while hoping you don't notice when they bail out the idiots.  So why don't sensible people just join the idiots in the bail-outs?  Because if you read the fine print then there are no bail-outs.  It is all loans and transfer of ownership and future obligations.  Sensible people can not live with that kind of insecurity.  But idiots live for today.  Idiots have been weaponized and used to enslave sensible people through debt-slavery.  How?  Well, everything is sold to the highest bidder.  Who is they highest bidder - the person who EARNT some money or the idiot who simply borrowed a bit more?  Sensible people either compete with idiots or do without.  And those who do without are hungry and homeless.  You enslave sensible people by forcing EARNT money to compete against BORROWED money for real goods and services.  Govt and Banksters will HAPPILY bail out idiots in order to force the sensible people to work harder.  That was the whole idea.

In reply to by HuskerGirl

Glyndwr will return Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:55 Permalink

Carwyn Jones - Wales First Minister: “There’s never been a better time to borrow (£500 billion). It’s cheap.” 24th April 2017. These are the idiots we are living with.He either thinks it's fine to indebt our youth, or he doesn't know where such money comes from (thin air - courtesy of a bank), or he believes in future growth, or he is just plain dumb. My guess is all of the above.

Bai Suzhen Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:05 Permalink

You know, I live debt free.  Not extravagantly, but enough to get by.  It's the moral thing to do.  But I swear, from looking around, sometimes I think the best way is to run up half a dozen Visa cards to the max, mortgage a half million dollar house I can't pay for, apply for disability claiming some phony PTSD illness, cop an EBT card and student loan, and then go cruise around on a scooter at Wal Mart buying junk I don't need, and poison foodstuffs.  Kick back and let someone else worry about it.  Just like the government, and, it seems, a hell of a lot of Americans.

Hongcha Bai Suzhen Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:49 Permalink

White Snake, indeed.  That is the morality that runs the Amerikan underclass.  The Amerikan underclass has lived in phat city for years, in my area at least (lower-middle class SF Bay Area).  Easy credit and people go for it. The moneychangers know.  Eventually the carpet will be yanked from under their feet.  The masses cannot be allowed to live well for long.

In reply to by Bai Suzhen