Tag Archive: consol bonds

Oct 17 2013

Go Ahead, Celebrate – You’re Celebrating Failure

Not you at the Stars Hollow Gazette. You know who.

Well it seems this continuing debacle every 3 months has ceased, for now. However, I really can’t get over this pathetic celebration over the really low bar involved with regard to avoiding what I call a political default on the public debt. This is the same embarrassing type of celebration that ensued in 2011. We need to get real. Despite the government being opened up again, there’s nothing to celebrate. We’ve already lost. After all, the debt ceiling was a precious gift Obama bestowed onto John Boehner in the 2010 tax deal as he put his full faith in Speaker John Boehner hands, as he took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage.

Of course, it was a deal struck between both of them to put who they called the “extremists” of both their parties in check, for a grand bargain like in 1983 when Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan cut social security. President Obama and Speaker Boehner weren’t fooling everyone, though. Just those involved in their hyper deluded, hyper partisan, claptrap. To some of us, this was entirely predictable and preventable. Now people are suffering because some people, blinded by their hyper-loyal partisan illusions, couldn’t or didn’t want to see what was there. Maybe their lack of sight reveals they don’t really care? It doesn’t matter though. This will continue to be what we go through when some of this crap continues again in 4 months in February, regardless.

This austerity government will reopen at sequester levels of funding; a sequester I predicted would be born out by the stupid Super Committee from the super austerity Budget Control Act of 2011, which I saw was inevitable since the 2010 tax deal led to the first, now ongoing, debt ceiling debacle; a miniature crisis to crisis government with no plans to invest in its citizens’ future. Anything else is possible though, from government shutdowns over the false prospect of defunding Obamacare, to any austerian Senator or Congressman using the threat of default for whatever demands they want.

We, the so called professional left as the White House derisively called us, warned about this. Anyone who denied this can either apologize now or forever restrain from speaking about matters regarding politics, civics, political deals, and the debt ceiling. We told all of you back in 2011 around this same time when that debacle was coming to its end – until this one and the next one 4 months down the line – that this was no victory.  

Oct 12 2013

Economic Populist: Premium Bonds Would Disarm Default Threat

Just as the GOP Shutdown was getting underway, 2 October, Matt Levine at Bloomberg was calling on the administration to Mint the Premium Bonds!.

The creepy trick that has swept the nation* is the platinum coin option, in which Treasury mints a $1 trillion platinum coin, deposits it at the Fed, and suddenly has an extra $1 trillion of money to spend without incurring any debt (and, thus, without breaching the debt ceiling). This is a good trick as tricks go, and it’s been extensively advocated by Josh Barro, Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, Joe Weisenthal, basically every economics blogger really. I am unaware of any good arguments that the platinum coin wouldn’t work, but it does have the problem that it is really really really really obviously a trick. I mean, it’s a trillion dollar coin, come on. So it’s sort of sub-optimal symbolically, and would make people really mad. It’s a crisis-enhancer, although with the benefit of avoiding immediate default.

So there is an alternative that Matt Levine is putting forth:

Instead of just rolling those Treasuries — paying them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 100 cents on the dollar — it should pay them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 275 cents on the dollar and using the extra money to pay its bills. The 10-year yield today is around 2.6 percent, so you could sell a 10-year with a 23 percent coupon for 275 cents on the dollar.**** The 30-year is about 3.9 percent, so a 14 percent coupon should get you there. Etc. Math here.

Now, given my previous writing on Fixed Interest Payment Consol Bonds … would this work too?

Yes, in a functional sense, of course it would. Its a similar, though not identical, answer, but it goes through the same loophole. Premium bonds are, by law, counted on their face value. So any bond with a face value substantially below its issue price that is used to roll over maturing long term bonds would “roll back” the debt ceiling count.

Oct 11 2013

Economic Populist: Will the White House Accept A Government Default, When It Doesn’t Have To?

Over at Wonkblog Ezra Klein, one of MSNBC’s favorite neoliberals, writes:

The problem with President Obama’s shutdown strategy



 

The political theory here is clear: Obama is trying to marshal public opinion against the GOP. If enough Republicans are getting angry calls from their constituents and seeing polls that look disastrous for their party, they’ll find a way to back down.

 

But it can backfire badly. Every second Obama stood at that podium made it a bit harder for the Republican Party to retreat. The more he repeats that this is their shutdown and they need to end it, the more their party suffers if they can’t find a way to prove the president wrong. Obama’s efforts to move public opinion toward  him also moves  Republican opinion against him.

 

… the White House is still pursuing a strategy that makes it harder for Boehner and the Republicans to back down. Their gamble is that the power of public opinion will overwhelm the power of presidential polarization. And if the Republican Party loses totally — loses in a way where they can’t tell themselves it was a win — that’ll be the end of these tactics.

The problem with this kind of brinksmanship tactics is that they may lead to an economic collapse ~ and given Europe’s ongoing problems with the scourge of harsh austerity policies in the context of a monetary system built broken, that might be a worldwide economic collapse.

Now, the threat of the economic collapse does not come from the Government Shutdown, it comes from the risk of default on the government debt, due to the US Treasury running out of juggling options before it needs to sell a new issue of Treasury bonds to avoid a default on payment of government obligations.

And the puzzling point is that the Administration insists that the risk of default is real, even though the Administration itself can take the threat of default off the table.

Oct 05 2013

Galbraith: Government Doesn’t Have to Borrow to Spend

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

James K. Galbraith in Government Doesn’t Have to Borrow to Spend quite clearly and without economic jargon explains why the debt ceiling debate is puppet theater:

The debt ceiling was enacted in 1917 for one purpose: to fool the rubes back home. Just as Congress started running up debts to pay for the war, they voted in the ceiling to pretend otherwise. And that is why whenever reached, it must be raised.


In the modern world, when the Treasury writes you a check, your bank credits your account. That’s how money creation works. The Treasury then issues bonds to absorb that money. Banks like this because bonds pay more interest than reserves. But there is nothing economically necessary about the bonds. This is obvious since the Federal Reserve buys back many of them, leaving the public with the cash it would have had in the first place.


Under present law, Jack Lew could even pay off public debt held by the Federal Reserve by issuing a high-value, legal-tender coin – so long as the coin happened to be platinum. A coin is not debt, so that simple exchange would retire the Fed’s debt holdings and lower the total public debt below any given ceiling.

James Galbraith admits that this is a gimmick … but then, so is the debt ceiling, so it would be one gimmick fixing the fact that one faction of one political party is holding the faith and credit of the US government hostage over what was originally and has always been since a gimmick.

Sep 27 2013

Economic Populist: Consol Bonds are the Debt Ceiling Walk Off Home Run

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

The Debt Ceiling debate is Yet Another GOP Abuse of the System, but the entire debate runs under the pretense that the Treasury cannot sell new bonds if the Debt Ceiling is not raised.

Look at the history of the debt ceiling, and its easy to see where people get that idea. Way back when, the Treasury went to Congress for each and every new bond issue. Then in 1917, with war breaking out in Europe, Congress reformed the system to give the Treasury more freedom of action, establishing an overall ceiling within which it could issue bonds. It was like moving from a series of individually negotiated loans with a bank to obtaining an approved credit line with the bank.

From 1917 to 2010, the increase of the debt ceiling when required was a routine transaction. But after the radical reactionary wing of the Republican party ran under the successful “Tea Party” branding, a number of radical reactionary GOP Congressmen balked at this routine transaction, and took the full faith and credit of the US Government hostage. This resulted in the “sequester” debacle, in which spending cuts that were deliberately designed to punish the American people in case Congress could not agree on the insane policy of cutting spending in the middle of what is now a five year old Depression. Congress could not agree, and so the brain-dead punitive spending cuts were put in place instead.

After that experience, turning out as badly as progressive populist critics at the time said it would, now there are bold words from the White House demanding a clean debt ceiling vote, without any hostage taking.

The good news is that if the Treasury turns to Consol Bonds, they can win this fight no matter what the radical reactionary wing of the House Republicans decide to do.

Sep 21 2013

Calling the Debt Ceiling Bluff: Taking It To The Owners

Joe Firestone has written an excellent piece at New Economic Perspectives on the phony fear mongering about the risk that the Republicans might not vote to raise the debt ceiling. He uses as his point of departure exquisitely fraudulent framing that Ezra Klein adopted for the proposal to trade a budget continuing resolution without defunding Obamacare, for taking the fight to the debt ceiling.

The reason the Republican leadership is making the case for that trade is that a continuing resolution has to pass both Chambers, and the version that defunds Obamacare is Dead On Arrival in the Senate, which will amend the bill to restore Obamacare funding and refuse to budge in reconciliation. So sooner or later, the House will have to pass a continuing resolution that includes funding for Obamacare, or else shoulder the political blame for shutting down government.

But what Joe focuses on is the framing of trading off a budget fight for a debt ceiling fight, in which Ezra says:

his is terrifying that this is the argument. And the analogy I would use is this is like trading a bad flu for septic shock. it is the worst trade in the history of all trades you could imagine . . .

Trading a bad flu for septic shock might be the worst trade in the history of all trades, but the only thing that makes the debt ceiling dangerous is the administration’s refusal to call the bluff. As Joe lays out, there are not one, not two, not three, not four, but five options, and three of them would succeed in eliminating the threat that the debt ceiling vote can every again be used for political blackmail.