Greece, Puerto Rico, Chicago, et al.
In the July 16th, 2015 edition of the WSJ, columnist Greg Ip states it perfectly: “sovereign defaults are like cockroaches – there is seldom just one.” Spain, Italy, and Portugal, which share the Euro currency with Greece, face the same daunting task of paying down their enormous debt obligations in a time of economic stagnation. A country can reduce its large debt several ways: austerity, economic growth, and low real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates. “More common than appreciated, is the more radical step of restructuring debt by reducing interest, lengthening the maturity, or slashing the amount owed to creditors”, Ip says. In exchange for potential debt restructuring, creditors (like the IMF dealings with Greece) will require debtors to engage in pro-growth economic policies, fiscal belt tightening, and policies favoring low real interest rates. The massive global debt service requirements will continue to force central bankers to keep interest rates at extremely low levels for a very long period of time. This “financial repression” will likely be accomplished under the guise of prudential governmental regulations that require banks and pension funds to hold increasing quantities of governmental debt despite the paltry yields.
Problem solved, right?