Why the Dollar-based International System Is Breaking Up
Paul Craig Roberts
The Federal Reserve’s higher interest rates after 12 years of zero interest rates are devaluing the asset side of banks’ balance sheets. This frightens depositors and they withdraw their deposits. Depositors also are withdrawing their money because they can get much higher interest rates on safe US Treasuries. According to some reports, $1 trillion has already been withdrawn from US banks. Bloomberg is reporting rumors that Schwab’s $7 Trillion empire based on low rates is cracking from bond losses. In the face of this vulnerability of the financial system, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates further.
There is also the problem of the currency and interest rate derivatives. No one knows the risk in these instruments. The US dollar itself is declining in use as world reserve currency. Alarmed by Washington’s weaponization of the dollar with sanctions and confiscations, much of the world is arranging to abandon the dollar’s use to settle international trade accounts, but the supply of dollars is not declining. This implies a fall in the dollar’s exchange value. The offshoring of manufacturing and food production has made the US heavily dependent on imports. A loss in the dollar’s exchange value resulting from countries settling their trade balances in other currencies means a sharp rise in US inflation.
The Federal Reserve hasn’t the intelligence to think through the consequences of its higher interest rate policy. The federal government cannot comprehend the consequences of offshoring for the US trade deficit or the consequences of continuing massive US budget deficits for the Treasury market.
Washington is too arrogant to comprehend the new way in which the US is perceived abroad. The world sees the dollar-based reserve currency system as Washington’s punishment device, and the world sees dollar-based debt expanding while demand for dollars declines. The result will be a drop in the foreign exchange value of dollar denominated financial instruments such as stocks and bonds.
The collapse of the Soviet Union gave Washington the opportunity to lead the world on a path of peace and economic development. But the neoconservatives could not resist their attempt for world hegemony and launched twenty-five years of war. Wall Street and corporate executives with eyes on bonuses could not resist deindustrializing the US by locating US manufacturing offshore, thus boosting Chinese economic growth instead of American economic growth. These major failures indicate the total failure of US policymakers.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the closing days of the 20th century launched the US into the 21st century on a path of financial instability. Nothing has been done to correct this, and nothing has been done to correct the offshoring mistake or the failure to control the supply of government debt. As countries move away from using the dollar to settle international transactions, a dollar glut will result in US inflation and declining American living standards.
Discussing the seriousness of our country’s situation with Michael Hudson, it is difficult to find hope. To admit that mistakes are being made implies acknowledging that we are on the wrong path and that China, Russia, and those governments aligning with them are on a better course, using their banks for financing industrial wealth instead of acting as brokerage casinos and dealing in financial arbitrage and debt leveraging. No American policymaker will risk being asked “why do you support the policies of Xi and Putin?” That they, and not us, have the right policy is not a permitted thought.
Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles and a columnist for Investor's Business Daily. In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists.
He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department's Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy." From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.
In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor.
Dr. Roberts' latest books are The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with IPE Fellow Lawrence Stratton, and published by Prima Publishing in May 2000, and Chile: Two Visions - The Allende-Pinochet Era, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen Araujo, and published in Spanish by Universidad Nacional Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, in November 2000. The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen LaFollette Araujo, was published by Oxford University Press in 1997. A Spanish language edition was published by Oxford in 1999. The New Colorline: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, was published by Regnery in 1995. A paperback edition was published in 1997. Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, co-authored with Karen LaFollette, was published by the Cato Institute in 1990. Harvard University Press published his book, The Supply-Side Revolution, in 1984. Widely reviewed and favorably received, the book was praised by Forbes as "a timely masterpiece that will have real impact on economic thinking in the years ahead." Dr. Roberts is the author of Alienation and the Soviet Economy, published in 1971 and republished in 1990. He is the author of Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974.
Dr. Roberts has held numerous academic appointments. He has contributed chapters to numerous books and has published many articles in journals of scholarship, including the Journal of Political Economy, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law and Economics, Studies in Banking and Finance, Journal of Monetary Economics, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Choice, Classica et Mediaevalia, Ethics, Slavic Review, Soviet Studies, Rivista de Political Economica, and Zeitschrift fur Wirtschafspolitik. He has entries in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Economics and the New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. He has contributed to Commentary, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Harper's, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, London Times, The Financial Times, TLS, The Spectator, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Figaro, Liberation, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.
Dr. Roberts was educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S.), the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.
He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: [email protected]
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