“Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand”

Perhaps the chilling reason no bill is even beginning to emerge from Congress is raising its ugly head. Could it be that members of Congress and the President, deep down, want to see the US government go cold turkey to a balanced budget? Like taking away the drugs from an addict, might they all believe it’s for our own good and our children’s future to take away the government’s credit card now, before it’s too late?

We know they all believe that because of the deficit we are on the verge of a Greek like financial crisis. We know they all believe we need deficit reduction to prevent catastrophe. We know they all believe the government has been borrowing from China to spend like a drunken sailor, leaving the debt to our grandchildren. We know they all believe we either make the tough choices now, or soon face the undeniable consequences. And we know they all believe that even the most aggressive packages under consideration won’t be sufficient to solve the problem.

So what’s a patriotic politician to do? What solves the problem and, while there will be near term pain, minimizes the total long term pain? Yes, running out the clock and doing nothing, which is exactly what’s happening. And all the while trying to make sure your opposition gets the blame for the initial pain, while positioning yourself to take credit for the good that will surely follow. Is that not what’s happening?

They are dead wrong, of course, and, consequently, we’re all dead ducks, as the price of nothing is far higher than anything I’ve seen discussed anywhere. With the automatic fiscal stabilizers disabled (Treasury spending can’t increase in a slowdown, and in fact is forced to decrease as revenues fall) the downward acceleration of the economy from the sudden cut in government spending will be far more severe than anyone has begun to imagine. The lack of general concern for what might happen is directly evidenced by the current market complacency, allowing those properly alarmed to get their hedges in place at very attractive prices.

What happens in the do nothing scenario?
Stocks go down globally, the US dollar goes up, commodities go down, US Treasury rates fall, credit sensitive interest rates rise, sales and GDP fall, unemployment rises, all in the context of a general global deflationary spiral.

So continue to hope for the best while being prepared for the worst.