What's in Store for the Dollar and United States?

What's Going On?
The most uncomfortable place to live is beyond your means.

United States and other Western countries that now experience the recession have long lived beyond their means. The time has come for the creditor  to collect the debt that has long been due but the borrower was too busy splurging his debt-based wealth. John Mangun on his article entitled The Death of Debt-Based Wealth, he explained that,

"For some thirty years, the developed so-called First World unashamedly did everything possible to make indulging in material satisfaction a primary life goal. The quest for more and more pleasure-giving ‘things’ has pushed aside faith, honor, family, dignity, wisdom, integrity, and responsibility.

Corporate executives falsify company books in order to fund their luxurious lifestyles. A woman in the US carrying triplets, aborts two of the children because having three kids would seriously affect her financial ability to entertain and travel. In the pursuit for ‘more’, average middle class people make wild investments. The result of being able to have more possessions is the justification for doing anything it takes to achieve that goal.

And if you cannot afford to buy the pleasure you want, borrow the money. Just like the drug user, one time will not hurt. That wasn’t so bad was it? So do it again and again and again until you are hooked and financially destroyed. "

The Problem - Financial Crisis - Budget Deficit- The Great Bubble

In the 1984 US Presidential campaign slogan of the late President Ronald Reagan, he promised that every American will have "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage". Unfortunately, the government and its politicians have taken the promise literally and still do all it can to support the luxurious and highly expensive lifestyle that Americans have developed and accustomed to.

Though it may be difficult to pinpoint the root of the current economic recession and financial crisis, it is safe to say that it is a progression of events. A result of overspending and improper budget allocation. 

It's like partying with your friends in some exclusive bar, smoking, drinking and taking advantage of all sorts of pleasurable services with the assurance in mind that your credit card has your back covered. 

However, after all the fleeting pleasure is gone, you would be faced with the reality that someone has to pay the bill.  That is exactly what is happening to the United States right now after they got most of its people convinced and encouraged to borrow the money just to finance and indulge to their whims until they reach the point that they max out their credit limit and nowhere to go since everyone expects you to pay for the bill. Reality is starting to creep in. The US government policies created a legal framework that the financial institutions maximized for their business interest and consumers participated so they could get wealthier, all for the purpose of a long term housing boom. A boom that has now come to bubble, thus the global recession that caused million to lose their jobs and their investments. A living proof that your job isn't really as secured as you thought it is.

The Solution

I'm not gonna try to be one of those financial experts that I highly admire but here's what I think about the Obama administration's $700 Billion stimulus package to try and straighten things out. John Mangun explained in his article entitle “$700 Billion: What It Does and Does Not Do”, he said that the stimulus package isn't actually a bail out. Instead, "it is an economic rescue attempt in the same way that throwing a life preserver to a drowning man is only the first step. You have to stop the situation from getting any worse before you can save anyone. The United States and Europe are drowning in a sea of bad loans. Without this government funding, those economies may drown. However, it will not save those economies. This is only chemotherapy to try to keep the credit cancer from growing; not to eliminate it."

With that being said, the Obama administration isn't solving the core problem at all. It only prolongs the agony.

Just as the cliche goes, you cannot draw water from an empty well, you cannot pay a debt with another hefty debt and expect everything to be alright.

In an article by IntelliBriefs entitled The Big Black Hole in the Dollar’s Future, it is believed that:

"For months the US Government has insisted that the worst of the “recession” is nearing an end and that “green shoots” of recovery are at hand. The reality is opposite. The financial crisis that began in August 2007 in the small “sub-prime” or high-risk segment of the $20 trillion mortgage debt market is now spreading, lawfully, to the “prime” or high-quality segment. The economy of the world’s sole Superpower is coming to resemble more than of the Roman Empire in the fourth Century as it collapsed into anarchy, debt and chaos.

Nations of the world are taking steps to move away from dollar dependency. China, Russia, Brazil, Kazakhstan are calling for a new reserve currency. China is quietly making bilateral currency swap agreements with Asian trade partners as well as Latin American and former Soviet Union countries. The major trade currency of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will not likely be the dollar. In Latin America the ALBA countries are switching to sucre as a trade currency instead of dollar starting from January 2010. MERCOSUR is going to refuse dollar in foreign trade in 2011.

The worst is yet to come for the world reserve currency."

Worse Scenario is Yet to Come. Run on the Dollar

Allow me to share an article explaining how you may be indirectly affected by the recession and what needs to be done.

"The current global economic crisis is causing governments around the world to take aggressive measures to mitigate the downside risk. One of the most aggressive is the US government which has basically thrown the kitchen sink at the problem. What didn't we have? Bank bailouts; auto bailouts; reduction of interest rates to 0%; massive stimulus packages and tax rebates; you name it, we got it. AND we're not done yet. The problem is that all the money for the bail-out needs to come from somewhere, and the main sources for spending? Debt and good ol' fashioned money printers. All of this leads me to be concerned about the value of the greenback.

What is a "run" on a currency? Much like a run on a bank, where investors all try to take their money out while the bank does not have enough liquid assets to satisfy everyone, a run on a currency is a case where investors panic and try to quickly pull their investments out of a particular currency and move to a currency that is perceived as being stronger.

How could a "run" begin? The government is raising incredible amounts of money by selling its debt to individuals, corporations and foreign governments. Essentially, our government is taking a huge mortgage on our future. But here is where it gets scary: what if people start to get scared about lending to the US government? What if folks suddenly realize that we Americans are living well beyond our means and maybe our IOUs are not worth all that much? What if they decide that the US is too risky of an investment and that all this money that's being pumped into the economy and printed up by the Fed is going to cause inflation and erode the value of their investments? If that happens, they might decide to get the hell out of the market, while their investment is still valuable. If enough investors attempt this at once and head for the exits simultaneously, all trying to sell their dollar denominated investments in favor of other currencies, we could see a sharp drop in the value of the Dollar.

What would a run on the Dollar mean for you? A dramatic weakening of the Dollar could have some alarming consequences. For one, the government would feel obliged to try to defend the currency. It may be able to do so by offering significantly higher interest rates which will encourage folks to stay in the market. Unfortunately, higher interest rates tend have a weakening effect on the economy, since consumers and businesses find it harder to borrow money at higher costs and therefore need to scale back consumption and investment. At the same time, a weakening of the dollar would make imported goods more expensive in the US. For example, if the Dollar falls compared to the Euro, and European exporters do not reduce their price in Euros, American buyers will need to pay more in Dollars to meet the same price. Our purchasing power abroad, and therefore our standard of living, will decline.

More ominously, one of the key things about the US currency is that many governments around the globe use the Dollar as a reserve currency - i.e. they save their spare cash in Dollar denominated investments or simply hold large amounts of US currency. If the Dollar weakens, it is very possible that some countries will decide that this is no longer a good solution and that it may be better to diversify into other currencies. This would have implications that go well beyond the scope of this post, but they are not good.

The good side of a weak Dollar. As the Dollar gets weaker, American goods and services become more competitive in the international markets. This can lead to an export led recovery, and reinvigorate such sectors as manufacturing, which have been steadily losing jobs to foreign competition. So, it's not all bad, but let's try to not go there anyway...

Is this a likely scenario? God knows. I don't. However, there is increasing chatter from economists who expect that the Dollar will weaken significantly once the global economy stabilizes, unless the US government is aggressive about soaking up any superfluous liquidity and vigilantly combats inflation and deficit spending.

How you can protect yourself from a worst case scenario. Well, a relatively easy solution is to diversify your portfolio into foreign denominated investments. For example, E*Trade offers investors the opportunity to open up brokerage accounts in one of several foreign subsidiaries and these accounts are denominated in the local currency. If you are not into opening up such an account, a simpler solution may be to invest a significant chunk of your portfolio in foreign stocks, or the stocks of American companies that get much of their revenue internationally. This is our preferred solution: we try to maintain 25% to 30% of our portfolio in international funds.

I sure hope such a scenario will not come to pass, but with the dramatic global economic turmoil, nothing seems impossible these days."

Your Fair Share in the Midst of Recession

Everyone has their own fair share of the problem. The government just can't take it all, along with the blame that's usually being thrown to them and shoulder everything. Thus, millions of those who have accumulated "virtual wealth" or debt-based wealth have lost it. From dust to dust. Financial institutions that accumulated billions of dollars have lost their clients trust.

Here in the Philippines, we've got our own fair share too just as the old saying goes, "When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches the cold". Most of the families I know rely highly on OFW remittances of their relatives that are now faced with de-valuing dollar and would often whine about the low exchange rate. Freelancers I know share the same problems over and over again on their Facebook walls. Little did they know that it's just the beginning. The P43 - $1 exchange rate that we currently enjoy is still actually enjoyable as it can be before peso would eventually reach  P40-$1, as per forecasted by Barclays Capital by the end of the year when there would be a great influx of remittances that would flood the country for the holiday season and exporters would no longer need dollars, or at least not as much demand for it. No matter how much I hope that the dollar would soon recover, truth be told, the reality is just starting to sink in.

"According to well-placed sources in Saudi Arabia, there have been secret meetings in recent months between the major Arab oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, and reportedly also Russia, with the leading
oil consumer countries including two of the three largest oil import
countries―China and Japan. 

Their project is to quietly create the basis to end a 65-year long “iron rule” of selling oil only in US dollars. That would be catastrophic for the dollar role. "

Test of Resilience and Rising Above the Blues

No matter how terrible things may be, it's still a wonder to me how do Filipinos get by. Perhaps because recession has long been we have been battling and long been stacked in our dictionary that we were not surprised anymore when the giants started to crumble while the Philippines and the rest of Asia kept rocking. In fact, while the Dow Jones may be down, the PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange) was actually gradually ascending and breaches the 4,000 mark and is at its all time high! Philippines is actually standing on its own...finally. I felt that the Lord is truly shielding the Filipinos by providing us with a shielding protection  by making Philippines as one of the largest trading partners of China, (yes, despite the hostage crisis) Japan and South Korea. Now I don't mean that God has forsaken the United States and its wonderful people. It's just that I feel that Philippines has long been undervalued and in the midst of chaos, entrepreneurs should be born.


IntelliBrief provided a conclusion for all of these. Again, the nightmare isn't over yet.

"The US government's budget deficit has jumped from $455 billion in 2008 to $2,000 billion this year, with another $2,000 billion for 2010. Obama has just intensified America's expensive war in Afghanistan and initiated a new war in Pakistan. There is no way for these deficits to be financed except by printing money.

The US government's budget is 50% in deficit. That means half of every dollar the federal government spends must be borrowed or printed. But the world is growing unwilling to lend $2 trillion annually to Washington.

America's largest creditor, China, is warning Washington to protect China's investment in US debt and discussing a new reserve currency to replace the dollar before it collapses. China is spending down its holdings of US dollars by acquiring gold and stocks of raw materials.

According to well-placed sources in Saudi Arabia, there have been secret meetings in recent months between the major Arab oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, and reportedly also Russia, with the leading oil consumer countries including two of the three largest oil import countries―China and Japan. Their project is to quietly create the basis to end a 65-year long “iron rule” of selling oil only in US dollars. That would be catastrophic for the dollar role.

Nothing in Obama's economic policy is directed at saving the US dollar. Obama's policy, like Bush's before him, is controlled by Wall Street and the arms industries. The US economy is going into severe depression and the dollar with it unless there is a new world war, God forbid. "

For America, I guess you need to truly live by your motto, "In God we Trust" since in times like these, you don't need financial geniuses to provide the healing in a cancer that could be chemotheraphied but totally incurable.

For everyone that's been highly affected by recession, here's an attempt to explain why jobs may be lost, but a hero in you may be born. Save all the bucks you can, diversify your investment and don't forget that greed may be good but remember that:

Building genuine wealth is as much about the builder as it is about the built. - Robert Kiyosaki 

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