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The Three Ds of Doom: Debt, Default, Depression

The Three Ds of Doom: Debt, Default, Depression

“Borrowing our way out of debt” generates the three Ds of Doom: debt leads to default which ushers in Depression.

Let’s start by defining Economic Depression: a Depression is a Recession that isn’t fixed by conventional fiscal and monetary stimulus. In other words, when a recession drags on despite massive fiscal and monetary stimulus being thrown into the economy, then the stimulus-resistant stagnation is called a Depression.

Here’s why we’re heading into a Depression: debt exhaustion. As the charts below illustrate, the U.S. (and global) economy has only “grown” in the 21st century by expanding debt roughly four times faster than GDP or earned income.

Costs for big-ticket essentials such as housing, healthcare and government services are soaring while wages stagnate or decline in purchasing power.

What’s purchasing power? Rather than get caught in the endless thicket of defining inflation, ask yourself this: how much of X does one hour of labor buy now compared to 20 years ago? For example, how much healthcare does an hour of labor buy now? How many days of rent does an hour of labor buy now compared to 1999? How many hours of labor are required to pay a parking ticket now compared to 1999?

Our earnings are buying less of every big-ticket expense that’s essential, and we’ve covered the gigantic hole in our budget with debt. The only way the status quo could continue conjuring an illusion of “prosperity” is by borrowing fantastic sums of money, all to be paid with future earnings and taxes.

At some point, the borrower is unable to borrow more. Even at 0.1% rate of interest, borrowers can’t borrow more because they can’t even manage the principal payment, never mind the interest. That’s debt exhaustion: borrowers can’t borrow more without ramping up the risk of default.

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