Another post on the nexus between US Debt, interest rates, and the value of the US Dollar, this time from an interview with Stephanie Pomboy, President of MacroMavens, in Barron’s.
On the topic of a decline in the buying of US Treasury debt by foreigners:
We are acting as though there are no consequences to basically running the money off the printing press and handing it to the Federal government to backstop financial markets or bail out homeowners or what not. There is no consequence to doing this, unless or until the rest of the world says to us, ‘We don’t like this game’ and ‘We don’t want to have all the dollar claims we are holding debased by [Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke] running his printing press.’
In response to the next question in the interview:
I’ve always had a very simplistic view about this: Either we are going to pay for our policy sins via higher interest rates or a weaker dollar. And for an economy that is as levered as the one in the U.S. is, the former choice is not an option. We can’t pay through higher interest rates; we barely got to 4.5%, 5% before the whole subprime crisis erupted. So a weaker dollar is the natural valve. But right now, we are enjoying some real competition in the ugly contest from the currencies of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and that will probably persist for a while because they are in pretty bad shape, and they are a little bit behind the curve relative to us.
If we rely on foreign creditors to lend us the money to sustain our lifestyles — and that’s what we do — we need to compensate them for that risk of lending to us. As the economy weakens and our credit quality should theoretically be deteriorating, the only way we can really attract that same capital is by offering a higher interest rate or making our assets cheaper to them, in this case by having our currency be weaker.