Monday, November 19, 2012

Bad Debt

Psalm 37:21
The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.

Proverbs 22:7
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.

Proverbs 22:26-27
Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Ecclesiastes 5:5
It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.

Romans 13:8
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Folks, sometimes I get tired of writing this stuff, but I will try again. Debt is not a blessing. In fact, in Deuteronomy God makes debt a part of the curse that befalls wicked nations. So here we go again.

European Union talks over the future of that monetary block just broke down. Their biggest problem? Too much bad debt. Greek bondholders have already lost 75% of the value of their holdings. Given that the Greek situation is not improving, a total default is possible. As the suffering of the average Greek increases, the Golden Dawn, a native fascist party is offering solutions that include clubs and steel toed boots. The Greek unemployment rate passed 25% in July. I couldn’t find any more recent data. In Spain the banks are collapsing as the result of a property bubble (more bad debt). Spain is on the verge of defaulting on their bonds. The only thing keeping them afloat are loans from the EU that pay the interest on their debt (more bad debt on top of bad debt!). The Spainish unemployment rate has also passed 25%.

Our country has passed the historically dangerous debt to GDP ratio of 100%. Individually, Americans are just about in the same bad shape as our Government. Collectively we owe something like $13 Trillion. U-6, the most accurate measure of U.S. unemployment has dropped below 15%. Let’s not get too happy about that number. It is five times higher than what was once considered theoretical full employment. One in five American homes is underwater. It is difficult to find a reliable number for mortgages in default, but the consensus seems to run about 10% or a bit more. Too much bad debt.

As their population ages, even the legendary productivity of Japanese industry is slowly being choked to death by too much bad debt. The Japanese bubble economy of 1986 to 1991 resulted in a deflationary spiral. The government poured billions into “zombie businesses” and make work projects in order to keep their economy from collapse. Although this resulted in what the Japanese term, “the lost decade,” their economy did avoid the complete destruction of a major depression. Now there is a price to pay. The Japanese economy has been described as a bug looking for a windshield.

I have written an entire blog entry on the effect that student debt is having on a generation of young Americans who find themselves unemployed or underemployed.

The Student Debt Diaster
Ultimately debt that can not be repaid will not be repaid. For the individual that means default, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. A nation with its own currency has a choice, default or the nation can just inflate the debt out of existence with a printing press. In my Franklin Planner I keep a $100 Trillion note from Zimbabwe. It is kind of pretty, but completely worthless.

The amount of debt you carry is not a status symbol. Please believe me. It is part of the curse.

Deuteronomy 28

[1] And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:
[2] And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

[11] And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
[12] The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.

[15] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

[43] The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.
[44] He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.

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