Beware the Ides of March
Eidus Martiae is the Latin term for 15th March, from the traditional Roman calendar. Since 44 BC, the Ides of March has held a dark reputation, as that was coincidentally the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar.
In December of 2016, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve announced that the Fed was likely to raise the interest rate several times in 2017. The next such rise is anticipated to take place on 15th March.
This is also an interesting date, as it’s the date upon which the US government reaches its debt ceiling. This was cast in stone by the previous administration, back in 2015. Although they put into place an automatic freeze on any increase in debt after that date, they did nothing to either cut back on expenditure or prepare for further funding. Therefore, the Ides of March once again has become ominous, as the US government is set to come to a grinding halt as soon as the money presently in the Treasury runs out.
On 15th March, the US Treasury will hold roughly $200 billion and will be unable to borrow more. When that $200 billion runs out, that’s it. Although this amount may sound sizeable, the US government spends roughly $75 billion per month, which means that it is due to hit the wall around the first of June.
As the date of the freeze is passed in Law, it will be difficult to alter.
Many American voters became concerned in recent years that their government was not behaving in a prudent manner with regard to spending and, when Donald Trump ran for President, he promised to “Make America Great Again,” and to “Drain the Swamp.” This was encouragement enough for voters to elect him. However, he also promised to increase spending on infrastructure, border controls, law enforcement, veterans’ benefits and the military. In addition, he assured America that he would not cut back on benefits such as Social Security.
He promised to make these spending expansions at the same time as he planned to make drastic cuts in revenue in the form of taxation.
Dramatic cuts in taxation, added to dramatic increases in expenditure, plus a mandatory freeze on the increase in debt, amounts to an economic Bermuda Triangle. Looked at in this light, it’s difficult to see the Ides of March as anything but an economic disaster waiting to happen.
Mister Trump’s ascendancy was an odd one. As an outsider, he was opposed by many Republicans who hold office. It’s understandable that the more indebted any Republican office holder is to his party, the more Mister Trump would appear to be a threat.
Although his candidacy was at first treated as a joke by both parties and the media, he did the unthinkable, beating out the pre-anointed Hillary Clinton. Democrats were horrified and remain so.
Although any new President is allowed a honeymoon period in which he has time to assemble his cabinet and get his programmes underway, this has not been the case for this President. He’s been attacked from all sides on a daily basis, before, during and after his inauguration. If ever there was a President whose head the political class wanted to see on a pike, it’s Mister Trump. And that will most certainly affect the degree to which they’re willing to come to his aid, should he find himself in a pickle.
It should be stressed that he’s in no way responsible for the setting of the debt limit; however, it does appear as though he’s ignored it, focusing instead on “hitting the ground running” with regard to his promised programmes. It’s also true that, whenever economic disaster occurs, all and sundry tend to blame the political leader of the day, regardless of whether he was the cause.
As they’re already pre-disposed to relish the prospect of Mister Trump’s downfall, the Democratic party and many in the Republican party will be unlikely to sympathise with the fact that the debacle occurred on his watch inadvertently.
At present, those who voted for Mister Trump are still in party-mode, celebrating what they hope will be the saving of America. It’s unlikely, however, that they understand the gravity of the events that are to occur on 15th March and will be blindsided when the Treasury hits the wall.
They’ll turn on the news each evening to learn what’s happened and will view one pundit after the other on a variety of stations describe Mister Trump’s “utter failure.”
We cannot foresee whether the Government will, at some point, attempt a solution. This may depend upon whether or not they understand that the bubble cannot be inflated forever; whether they realise that a crash in the system is overdue and inevitable.
If they do realise this fact, they’ll recognize quickly that they have a golden opportunity to pass the buck for the fiscal damage they’ve done, then can use Mister Trump as the fall guy for the debacle. If they use the media well, they’ll rise up in righteous indignation at the damage caused by “the arrogant billionaire” and point to the mess that they’re left to clear up as a result of his abject failure.
If they do so, they’ll be likely to follow up with the institution of capital controls and the creation of a new currency. In addition we’re likely to see the confiscation of deposits (as per Cyprus) and rationing of withdrawals (as per Greece) by banks. They’ll additionally institute travel controls and ramp up the police state.
All of this can be presented as “necessary” under “emergency conditions.” Of course, the period of the emergency is likely to be lengthy, as there is, at present, no solution in place to address an economic collapse.
If the Government, with the assistance of the media, do go this route (as they would have everything to gain and little to lose), they’d be likely to further take advantage of the situation. They’d be in a position to insist that, had the election not been lost to Mister Trump, the debacle would never have taken place. (Yes that would be a lie of epic proportions, but, as Adolf Hitler correctly observed, if you make the lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will believe it.)
This provides the opportunity to assure that the next president will be an avowed collectivist. Voters will support whoever promises the most security, regardless of whether that candidate can actually deliver on the promise.
It’s important to note that my observations as to how the events of the Ides of March will be handled are just that – my observations. It’s possible that the path that’s ultimately taken could be a different one. (They may pass emergency measures that will delay the inevitable once again, but ultimately make the situation far worse.)
What we can say with absolute certainly, however, is that the US government is about to face a deadline which threatens to be devastating for the American people, who are in no way prepared for its arrival on their doorstep.
In March, the Fed is likely to raise rates at a time when debt levels are at an all-time high. They did this in 1929 and, as history has shown, this did not turn out well. Worse, at that same time, the debt ceiling will be reached.
If they can delay the inevitable a bit longer, they most certainly will. But history may later show that this was the point at which the house of cards began to fall. For those who have seen it coming, this may be the moment that you check to see that your seat belt is fastened.
Jeff Thomas is British and resides in the Caribbean. The son of an economist and historian, he learned early to be distrustful of governments as a general principle. Although he spent his career creating and developing businesses, for eight years, he penned a weekly newspaper column on the theme of limiting government. He began his study of economics around 1990, learning initially from Sir John Templeton, then Harry Schulz and Doug Casey and later others of an Austrian persuasion. He is now a regular feature writer for Casey Research’s International Man, Strategic Wealth Preservation in the Cayman Islands and 321Gold.