Jim Cramer, former hedge fund samurai and current TV shouter, says the following:
It’s dawning on wall street that George W. Bush may be the first president since Lyndon B. Johnson who believes that we can have a guns-and-butter federal spending policy without creating a serious inflation spiral, if not outright government bankruptcy. At least LBJ, to his credit, believed that there were limits to profligacy and that taxes had to be raised. Not President Bush. He’s making Johnson look like a fiscal conservative, what with his insistence on waging a war in Iraq that’s costing $177 million a day and rebuilding New Orleans by taking on a monstrous load of federal debt.
For the longest time, because Bush is a Republican, we on Wall Street simply didn’t believe that he could be a reckless spender. We knew only two paradigms: You either spent less and cut taxes or you spent more and raised taxes. Both courses at least presumed some sacrifice at some time. Not Bush’s plan. He’s gone on both the biggest spending binge and the lowest taxation course in U.S. history, which, alas, will produce gigantic liabilities down the road. Of course, he’ll be back on the ranch by the time his successor will have to deal with his inflation and currency debasement. Our only hope that financial disaster won’t strike sooner lies with the Chinese, who actually fund our deficit by buying our Treasuries—$242 billion worth, or 12 percent of all foreign holdings. If the Chinese decide to be good communists and stop buying our bonds, the Feds will have to raise rates to attract new investors and the reaper will be at our doorstep with interest rates more akin to those of South than North America. Right now, it’s not a problem. But in a year or two or maybe less, I perceive that the government will throw a bond auction and nobody will show, including the Chinese, until rates shoot up dramatically.
What if that happens? What if our fiscally clueless president really does keep spending at a rate that far exceeds what our government can take in at these low tax rates? What happens if the president’s acolytes and the Pollyannas in Treasury keep believing that we can grow our way, fairy-tale-like, out of this jam? You can bet that when you cash out your nest egg of nice U.S.-based mutual funds and solid common stocks, your dollars will fit nicely into a wheelbarrow designed specifically to cart worthless currency to the bank.
See here for Cramer’s ideas about how to save your portfolio during the coming crisis. Meanwhile, a study by Laurence J. Kotlikoff of Boston University, commissioned by Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill before he was booted off the Bush team for telling too many truths, says that the U.S. government is basically bankrupt — and the press seems to be picking up on it.