Blast From the Future on the Crash of 2015
CAYMAN ISLANDS, January 2016 - Today's paper says we should have seen it coming.
The facts were all there. Were we really that stupid?
For three years, the Federal Reserve was the largest buyer of Treasury securities, scooping up two-thirds of all U.S.securities sold at auction, driving interest rates down to practically nothing. In the process, the Fed built up a $4 trillion dollar balance sheet and no one asked where that money was going to go.
How did the Fed pay for these securities?
They "printed money." And look what they got out of thin air: Interest-paying U.S.government bonds that produced an annual profit of more than $80 billion!
The Fed magnanimously turned over most of those profits to the Treasury every year. Media editorials congratulated the wise men for their financial acumen and their sterling sense of responsibility.
(Read More: Fed's $4 Trillion Question: Where's the Exit)
It took far too long for other purchasers of U.S. Treasurys to realize that they were buying into a house of cards.
Last year, the governor of the British Central Bank went to parliament and announced that the U.S.had perpetrated the biggest financial swindle of all times. Imagine printing money and buying securities that paid interest! And nobody seemed to mind.
Amidst a chorus of yeas, the Central Bank of Great Britain announced that it would no longer buy U.S. Treasury securities at unrealistically low interest rates.
The world took notice.
China followed suit and so did Japan. Now the Fed was in the awkward position of being the only substantial buyer of U.S. bonds.
(Read More: US Markets, a Different Kind of Triple Threat)
The next treasury auction failed and the bottom dropped out.
The stock market plummeted 35 percent in one week. Gold rose to a record $3600 an ounce, and interest rates on the 2-year Treasury note spiked to 6.5 percent.
Alas, that was just the beginning.
This past year, more than $1 trillion had poured into safe bond funds that were now trading at a significant loss. Investors who thought their money was safe rushed to redeem. Of course, the market wasn't able to accommodate the rush of withdrawals so fund redemptions were suspended and the panic spread.
If money wasn't safe in bonds, would it be safe in banks? The next run, this time against banks, soon began and lines snaked around the block.
That's when I decided to move to Grand Cayman.
My stock portfolio was decimated but my stash of gold helped me get through. I read the news every day and watch as the new Fed board promises never again to condone such irresponsible activities.
It's fair to ask how clear thinking leaders could have allowed all this to happen. The answer became obvious after the crisis.
In 2012, interest on the national debt was more than $360 billion, and that was when interest rates were at record lows!
The "wise men" knew that an increase in rates would devastate the economy. For example, if interest rates went back to their 20-year average of 5.7 percent, interest costs alone on our national debt would amount to nearly $1 trillion a year.
That would mean that all of the revenue collected from our personal income taxes would go to service our debt.
The nation wouldn't stand for that, would it? Of course not, so they had to do something to stop it.
What they did was to drive interest rates as low possible for as long as they could. Then the music stopped, the buyers realized they were being conned, and the crisis began.
In a couple of years, I may want to move back. Right now, I'm going for a swim.
Peter J. Tanous is president of Lepercq Lynx Investment Advisory in Washington D.C. He is the co-author (with Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore) of The End of Prosperity (2008), and co-author (with CNBC.com Senior Writer Jeff Cox) of Debt, Deficits, and the Demise of the American Economy (2011).