The US gets away with its current spending levels, and the “quantitative easing” (faking money) combined with borrowing money, because we remain the world’s reserve currency. Generally, this means that everyone else’s currency and trade is measured in US dollars.

As a random aside, the word “dollar” and “neanderthal” share a common root — the “thal” and “dol” part comes from “tal” meaning “valley.” The bones were found in the Neander River valley in Germany, and the silver was originally mined and minted into coins in Joachim’s Valley in Czechoslovakia and called “Joachimsthalers” which was quickly shortened to “‘thalers.” The name, with spelling changes, spread across many countries around the world.

How safe is the US dollar’s position as the world currency? It isn’t. China has been working hard to displace the dollar as the world reserve currency. Over the past few years, more and more international transactions (especially oil) have been negotiated and delivered in yuan instead.

The Communist Chinese renminbi (“people’s money”) is measured in yuan, currently running about USD $0.15. If it reaches a point to make the swap possible, and this requires only popularity and acceptance, then the US economy will collapse. This could be days from now, or perhaps several years.

President Obama decided to help this process along. Back when the Democrats had control in 2010, he signed a law nominally punishing Americans, but that would force egregious reporting requirements upon any international bank that did any business in dollars, which was assumed to be with Americans and required releasing all of their IDs and private information, including transactions.

It didn’t matter if these foreign banks had any presence in the US or not; they were either going to cooperate or be penalized by the US.

The original plan was to exact a careful series of cross regulation requirements on each country, but by the time this deal came together, he had cut weak deals with many countries that did little to them but greatly harmed Americans they did business with. That was the point; these Americans were “evil rich” in Obama’s way of thinking.

That new law had an effective date of July 2014 for most countries, and bank after bank is dropping their US dollar (and American) business and usually moving to renminbi instead as their standard reserve. Obama pushed out the effect for four years, just like Obamacare, thinking he would not likely be around when the bad effects began to be realized.

Once a tipping point is reached on the world reserve choice, the switch could take place in hours. And at that moment, the US government would no longer be able to raise money by printing or borrowing more, hyperinflation would follow immediately, and our debt would be immediately due. Then our credit, trade, and financial markets would come to an end. Credit cards would be worthless, then soon enough cash would be as the American infrastructure fails.

This will happen, sometime in the next weeks or years, with one or two possibilities for a reprieve. Chance one is the collapse of China itself, or the perceived likelihood of such a collapse, keeping the renminbi from displacing US currency. Something a bit like this is going on, which is perversely good for us, at least for now.

Chance two is that we get our stuff together and learn to spend within our means, and begin paying off our debt. In this latter case, we would be impervious to damage even if replaced, and our moves toward financial stability would keep us as the desired currency in any event.

The law is amusingly called the Fatcat law minus the last “T” — FATCA. Had it been implemented as a treaty instead of a bunch of weak-Obama-signed agreements, it would be the full FATCAT. But Obama read the headwinds against Obamacare and knew he would not be likely to hold things together and get a treaty signed. This law was pushed through at the same time as Obamacare (it was signed quietly the week before) just before the Tea Party cleaned out some of the bad actors.

Here’s a list of countries that have signed on so far. It’s a long list.

If you made it this far, thanks for your patience.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • If “The One” had anything to do with the FATCA (Fat Cat) Law perhaps it should be renamed, “The FATWA Law.” Just sayin’

  • Wow, Keith! I am going to be coming back to your blog here a lot. I am really impressed with it and thanks for commenting on mine today.

  • Triciabee

    Keith, your post offers a great explanation for readers like me that know our economy is a house of cards but not exactly sure why. I remember when that Obama law came out and the analysis at the time was it was horrible for ex pats living abroad because they get paid in U.S. dollars and will find themselves with nowhere to bank. I had not heard your take on it and how easily it could lead to collapse if the yuan catches up which is not at all an impossible feat. Truly frightening.

    Interesting history on the words dollar and neanderthal. I enjoyed that! 🙂