Signs Of Weimar Appearing In The US?

January 21, 2014

History is often written to benefit certain groups over others.

Indeed, you will often find the blame for some of the worst events in history placed on the wrong individuals or factors. Most Americans today continue to argue over liberal vs. conservative beliefs, unaware that the vast majority of economy ills plaguing the country originate in neither party but in the Federal Reserve, which has debased the US Dollar by over 95% in the 20th century alone.

With that in mind, I want to consider what actually caused the hyperinflationary period in Weimar Germany. Please consider the quote from Niall Ferguson’s book, “The Ascent of Money” regarding what really happened there:

Yet it would be wrong to see the hyperinflation of 1923 as a simple consequence of the Versailles Treaty. That was how the Germans liked to see it, of course…All of this was to overlook the domestic political roots of the monetary crisis. The Weimar tax system was feeble, not least because the new regime lacked legitimacy among higher income groups who declined to pay the taxes imposed on them.

At the same time, public money was spent recklessly, particularly on generous wage settlements for public sector unions. The combination of insufficient taxation and excessive spending created enormous deficits in 1919 and 1920 (in excess of 10 per cent of net national product), before the victors had even presented their reparations bill… Moreover, those in charge of Weimar economic policy in the early 1920s felt they had little incentive to stabilize German fiscal and monetary policy, even when an opportunity presented itself in the middle of 1920.

A common calculation among Germany’s financial elites was that runaway currency depreciation would force the Allied powers into revision the reparations settlement, since the effect would be to cheapen German exports.

What the Germans overlooked was that the inflation induced boom of 1920-22, at a time when the US and UK economies were in the depths of a post-war recession, caused an even bigger surge in imports, thus negating the economic pressure they had hoped to exert. At the heart of the German hyperinflation was a miscalculation.

You’ll note the frightening similarities to the US’s monetary policy today. We see:

  • Reckless spending of public money, particularly in the form of entitlement spending
  • Excessive spending resulting in massive deficits.
  • Little incentive for political leaders to rein in said spending.
  • Intentional currency depreciation in order to make debt payments more feasible.

This sounds like a blueprint for was US leaders (indeed most Western leaders) have engaged in post-2007. The multi-trillion Dollar question is if we’ve already crossed the line in terms of setting the stage for massive inflation down the road.

We believe that it is quite possible… for the following reasons.

  • The US now sports a Debt to GDP ratio of over 100%.
  • Every 1% rise in interest rates will result in over $100 billion more in interest payments on US debt.
  • Indications of inflation (stealth price hikes, wage protests, etc.) are showing up throughout the economy.
  • Indications that other countries are moving to abandon the US Dollar are present.

In a nutshell we are in a very dangerous position. This doesn’t mean hyperinflation HAS to occur. Indeed, history often times rhymes rather than repeats. However, the fact of the matter is that the same policies which create Weimar Germany are occurring in the US today. How they play out remains to be seen, but it is unlikely it will end well.


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Graham Summers is Chief Market Strategist for Phoenix Capital Research, an independent investment research firm based in the Washington DC-metro area with clients in 56 countries around the world.

Graham’s clients include over 20,000 retail investors as well as strategists at some of the largest financial institutions in the world (Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, and Raymond James to name a few). His views on business and investing has been featured in RollingStone magazine, The New York Post, CNN Money, Crain’s New York Business, the National Review, Thomson Reuters, the Glenn Beck Show and more.

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