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Latest Issue

The Coming Supercyclical Crisis

June 14, 2024

You know I’m highly concerned about government debt in the developed world, particularly the US. I’ve said for years a crisis is coming. We’ve blown right past all our chances to avoid it. Now all we can do is imagine what the crisis will look like… and how much it will hurt.

This is necessarily speculative, and even more so because the details matter. It’s not just monetary policy that is “path dependent.” The coming crisis is also path dependent with a million ways to reach the same ugly place. And the actual details of the crisis are also unclear. Each step forward changes the available choices.

Most of the country, investors, politicians, and the general public assume that the fabled bond vigilantes us old folks talk about are really and truly dead, if they think about it at all. When the people find out that they are indeed not dead, it will be the most startling resurrection in 2,000 years.

All that said, I’m feeling a little more clarity thanks to a new report by old friend and fishing buddy Martin Barnes, longtime chief economist of The Bank Credit Analyst. Martin retired a few years ago but the new editors occasionally ask him to share his insights. His new special report, Revisiting the Debt Supercycle, describes with terrifying simplicity how this debt situation developed and where it’s going.

I first began reading the BCA in the 1990s. My late partner Gary Halbert was a fan and we pored over each month's letter. It was my first exposure to high-quality...

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