Contrary to popular opinion, the current crisis has very little to do with the Armageddon that Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, predicted over the past few years. In his mind, the widening US current account deficit would eventually top the willingness of the rest of the world to fund it, causing the US dollar to crash while long term interest rates on US Treasury bonds would soar.
That has little to do with this crisis: the US has become the only remaining super-borrower, able to issue thousands of billions of dollars in debt at record low rates while the dollar strengthens. People are unwilling to lend to almost anybody except for the US Treasury. This has allowed the US to provide – at record low cost – about $5,000bn (£3,325bn, €3,700bn) to bail out its financial system and organise a Keynesian reflation of its economy.
At the same time, fairly well behaved countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and Turkey have essentially lost access to external finance.
What should the US do with its newfound financial power? While it is tempting to use this power only for domestic policy purposes, it would be a mistake to do so.
Barry Riholtz at the Big Picture, correctly dubbed this a new "Marshall Plan" for the 21st century. I like this presentation and the idea behind it that the US can keep pulling the world ahead by inundating it with debt.
I see 2 potential problems with it. First is that unlike WW2 the US is not the productive country that needs to build a market for its goods. The consumer is the US, and the debt is bigger than its production. The rest of the world want to see a market for THEIR goods. The US is the debtor/consumer of last resort. In other words, the US is to China, what EU was to the US: a market of consumer. If China was to fund the US, then maybe we could create a parallel to the Marshall Plan.
Second all of it depends on the willingness of the US Govt to fund operations outside its borders. The Bush administration has funded mostly wars outside its borders and the Obama administration was making very protectionist noises during the campaign. In short the political will to do so must emerge from a realization that funding investments outside the US is in the interest of the US when, in times of crisis, all money and politics tend to turn local.
As is this is a plan to finance the rest of the world with a carry trade of sorts... the US can borrow cheaply and finance the rest of the world on its sovereign terms. It can make money as the last standing capital source. Could be a good thing.