Guest Author Blog by Jeff Cox, co-author of “DEBT, DEFICITS and the DEMISE of the AMERICAN ECONOMY,”
We have been here before.
These five words start the final chapter of “DEBT, DEFICITS and the DEMISE of the AMERICAN ECONOMY,”the just-released book from myself and Peter J. Tanous, principal and founder of Lynx Lepercq Investment Advisory in Washington, D.C.
While they sum up the overriding theme, they also express the frustration that in part drove us to write the book—that a series of problems about to drive the US economy into another major crisis have, in fact, been seen before and should have been preventable.
As it stands, though, it is too late.
The series of events we describe will indeed trigger a financial catastrophe, likely worse than what we just lived through in the 2008 and 2009 collapse of the financial system. The only question is timing and degree.
In the book, we use linear thinking to trace the roots—starting with the looming debt defaults in Europe from which will ensue a crisis of confidence that will spread across the Atlantic quickly and bring down the teetering tower of debt the US has constructed during the financial system collapse.
The genesis of the book came from thoughts Peter and I shared last year about where we thought the economy was going. We both worried about the threat from sovereign debt as well as our own trillions in borrowing that ultimately will have to be repaid.
And we both came to the same conclusion: That we are on a collision course with a very bad set of circumstances that ultimately will create a brutal wave of inflation unlike any this country has seen in at least 30 years and possibly longer.
In writing the book, we set up a few ground rules: No political pandering, and no wild predictions about specific events, such as the exact date when the crisis would occur or when the stock market would crash. The crisis could come quickly or gradually; the loss in the stock market will be substantial but there’s no telling exactly how much; inflation will be serious but there’s no way of knowing an exact percentage amount.
We merely wanted to set out our case in a factual manner, using linear thinking and what Peter termed “epistemic humility,” or a mindset that essentially lets the facts and only the facts be our guide.
Both of us were heavily influenced by the thinking in “The Black Swan,”written by Peter’s friend, Nassim N. Taleb. In the widely read and extensively cited book, Taleb warns about the “scandal of prediction” that causes too many investors and economists to miss “the highly improbable consequential” events that matter most in our lives.
So adapting some of the principles from Taleb as well as our own conclusions, we set out to write a book that held to a third priority to which we agreed—expressing the problem in stark terms that could be comprehended without needing an economics degree.
Our efforts, then, have brought us here, to the release of a comprehensive yet concise accounting of how we’ve dug this hole for ourselves, what the consequences will be, and, most importantly, how to protect our assets in such a tumultuous environment.
The goal is not gratuitous fear-mongering, but rather an effort to provide a warning that the real bills are about to come due for the excesses of the past decade and it’s better to be forewarned and forearmed.
So yes, we have been here before.
But we hope this book helps us from coming back here again.
You can check out the first chapter here. Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com, from Debt, Deficits, and the Demise of the American Economy by Peter Tanous and Jeff Cox (c) 2011 by Peter Tanous and Jeff Cox. Jeff is a staff writer with CNBC.com and covers the gamut of issues affecting the stock market and the economy.