Which bring us to topic #1 here, and everywhere else where economics is involved: cash flows.
This has been a factor mobilisation story on unprecedented proportions, but appears to have reached its conclusion as resource constraint has meant the “cash flow” to grease the wheels has started to become more expensive and constrained. Profit without productivity can only carry on for a finite period; we are now clearly consuming down our balance sheet or putting it through the P&L account.
So we are left with a massive amount of debt, a massive amount of capital and labour that is unprofitable in the world we face, and a balance sheet of insufficient resources to keep the illusion alive. The only thing that will get us out of this in the long run is innovation which will expand the balance sheet, expand the pie and create the jobs that people want.
How do we get rid of the debt? Are we in a debt trap whereby any interest rate hike will kill the recovery? Clearly it is going to be incredibly difficult, but low real rates are the cause of the problem, not the solution. I don’t personally see a zero rate trap, but we need to allocate capital far more productively than we are doing.
The cost of money itself is hugely important. How negative were real rates? When people talk of borrowing from the future, surely the same logic applies to the cost of capital. If we have had low or negative rates that supported excessive consumption, we now need to have high real rates to direct capital back to innovation and gradually repair the balance sheet. The real cost of capital has to go up. No matter how much fighting the Fed and Treasury do, the real cost of capital will rise. The bond markets have to be allowed to clear some of the debt and thereby remove some of this misallocation of capital.
It's not "debt trap", it is "Fed trap"
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