When China announced to the world that it would open its doors to foreign investment, multinational corporations from both Europe and America rushed to stake a claim to a unique gold rush opportunity of historic proportions. China offered EurAmerican MNCs that agreed to share trade secrets and intellectual capital, that had capital to expand China’s manufacturing infrastructure, and that could open their own countries to China’s goods, the opportunity to participate in China’s newly opened special economic zones, with the hope of marketing to their 1.3 billion people.
Requiring massive investment to capitalize on the opportunity, MNCs sought the support of international investment banks and lobbied home governments to provide looser, deregulated capital markets as well as to submit to opening home markets to “free trade”. MNCs then began a three decade long extraction of wealth, factories, and jobs from EurAmerica to build China’s manufacturing infrastructure and GDP.
At the beginning of China’s historic rise, American politicians freed capital for China investment by reducing taxes of the investment class of Americans; through a reduction of the top tax income rate from 70% to 50%, through reduction of capital gains tax from 28% to 20 %, and through tripling of estate tax exemptions. As more and more capital was needed, America’s baby boomer retirement investments were developed for ease of use in China. In America, 401Ks, started in 1980, and IRAs, made available to all citizens in 1981, siloed middle class investments into the stock market that directed a majority of retirement funds toward China.
Later in China’s growth cycle, EurAmerican banks devised ways to extract even more capital through debt instruments from their citizens. EurAmerican interest rates were set low, creating the credit to extract maximum capital to fund the growth of China’s manufacturing infrastructure through home equity and business development loans. Yet, to meet China’s capital needs in the exponentially growing latter stages of growth, extreme capital extraction through maximum borrowing of a majority of private citizens and public entities was required.
Investment banks created a method of extracting maximum capital from EurAmericans’ main investments, their homes. To accomplish this, Investment banks restructured the banking industry. They first created methods of incentivizing consumers to take as many and as large of loans as possible through risky, low interest, no income verification loans and other, more predatory loans. They also rid commercial banks of their traditional, credit restricting roles by incentivizing them to make as many loans as possible, with minimal risk because they could simply resell the mortgages to the investment banks for a profit. Finally, they developed complex, (and unfortunately faulty) derivatives to buy mortgages from commercial banks and repackage them for profits.
In the process, a majority of consumers that could afford it were lured through ease of access and Ponzified greed into their debt web. Greed played its part with commercial banks as well, as most became willing accomplices of the role that investment banks created in transforming them into maximum credit authorizing, debt creating factories to feed the raw commodities of capital that China needed for her later growth stages. As beneficiary of EurAmerica’s capital, China became a strategic partner to the process by supporting low EurAmerican inflation and interest rates through:
• Accepting free flow of manufacturing infrastructure into her economic development zones
• Funding infrastructure debt payments through sales of low costs goods back to EurAmerica
• Mitigating international demands to revalue the Yuan higher by maintaining historic trade imbalances with EurAmerica and reinvesting Yuan back into EurAmerica
• Keeping internal inflation low through internally enforced savings of wage controls and removing excess Yuan from circulation through funding trading countries deficits
• Managing external commodity inflation through aggressive development of international Greenfield commodity projects to supplement absorption of long term international commodity contracts and relationships that were left unattended by EurAmerica.
• Reinvesting surplus capital into EurAmerica, keeping world interest rates low to extract last vestiges of EurAmerican capital through historic levels of corporate and private debt
When this historic, debt driven, extraction of two great empires’ wealth reached its zenith, like all financial bubbles finally do, public, private and corporate debt had stretched beyond its ability to pay, exceeding $50 trillion dollars in America alone. The financial herd had stretched so thin that it simply required a few debt ridden gazelle to nervously default to start the whole herd stampeding frenzily toward the bank runs that inevitably follow peak excess. This time in history, it was the unraveling of the predatory American home loans that toppled EurAmerica’s financial house of cards. Nonetheless, if not for this gazelle, another would have jumped to take its place, for no exuberant and irrational credit binge ever stands in the longer term.
When this Rube-Goldberg loan scheme supporting the massive capital transfer from EurAmerica to China finally collapsed, investment banks were pushed to the precipice of default. Acting independently of government mandated goals, central banks, with the Federal Reserve out front, stepped in to protect the banking industry by providing liquidity to those investment banks most at risk. They did so claiming that not providing liquidity would have caused domestic businesses and private citizens to default through massive foreclosures, bankruptcies, layoffs, financial and operational restructuring.
Unlike previous historical investment bubbles, in which many investment banks failed, EurAmerican central banks temporarily saved the vast majority of investment banks through simultaneous, massive expansion of the money supply, staving off a rapid disintegration of public, private and corporate debt, recorded as assets on their balance sheets. Recognizing further monetary support was required, the Federal Reserve attempted to mount another widespread EurAmerican expansion of money supply but Europe, intent on preserving its courtship of unification and now dealing with the crisis of PIIGS deficits, did not concur. Without palatable alternatives, the Fed embarked on a Romanesque fait accompli of reserve currency monetary expansion, attempting to reverse the entire world’s contraction of money supply through what they termed Quantitative Easing.
It appears that temporarily at least the Fed’s Quantitative Easing policy have strengthened EurAmerican banks’ balance sheets, transferring some toxic assets to sovereignties, and have girded them to endure the coming double dip recession. However, it failed to accomplish their stated long term debt stabilizing goals. Unemployment is once again increasing, housing prices have reversed and are falling, and while some European countries have begun to institute austerity programs, America is projecting trillion dollar deficits for the remainder of the decade.
Unfortunately, the Fed does not have the magic bullet to repair the only ways to truly provide long term stabilization of massive EurAmerican debt supporting their balance sheets. To do that, EurAmerica must stabilize the underlying ability and desire of their debt holders to make debt payments. This can only be accomplished by:
• Maintaining and growing EurAmerican economies
• Reducing real EurAmerican unemployment
• Increasing the nominal values of EurAmerican Housing or restructuring housing debt
• Eliminating public deficits
• Reducing non-value generating debt
• Maintaining minimum interest on existing debt while incentivizing its reduction and saving
Without immediate and urgent prescriptive measures to meet the above objectives and to mitigate the impact of EurAmerica’s retreat from previous financial investment and consumption patterns, a cold, worldwide economic winter most likely ensue. American direct foreign investment has already begun its inevitable descent. Europe’s protectionism has kept available resources flowing to China but EU will soon follow with fewer investments in China as well. China will react with less support for EurAmerican deficits, severely restricting EurAmerica’s monetary managment options.
If we do not act soon, our political systems will be forced into severe austerity measures. The world will enter a deep and disruptive recessionary cycle from which countries and entire regions will eventually emerge in an entirely new trading pattern; one that is China centric, developed around its newfound industries that were funded by EurAmerica at the turn of the 21st century. China will emerge first, building on its excess modern manufacturing capacity and hegemonic commodities relationships. When at last EurAmerica exits from the long winter of debt riddled recession, it will follow the path to the Asian economies.
Prescriptions to follow…