This much he promises you:
The debt ceiling may have been raised and the palpable sighs of relief heard across global financial markets, but the fun times are over. They’ll be no jokes from Bill Gross today, nor across this land for years to come I suspect. Even though the U.S. has managed to avert a debt crisis and perhaps a ratings downgrade, there remains a stain on our reputation, a scarlet “A” for budgetary “Abuse,” that will not disappear.
Not only is he unhappy about the fact that the debt deal makes no real cuts; he's also concerned about the people who think they'll be getting Medicare some day:
The press and most professional investors are accustomed to measuring “paper” debt as opposed to walking/living liabilities in the form of people. I call these liabilities “debt men walking” because as long as 330 million living Americans require promised entitlements – the $66 trillion that wear shoes are as much of a liability as the $10 trillion on paper.
The $66 trillion comes from the Mary Meeker "USA Inc." study from earlier this year, which finds that unfunded Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid liabilities total $66 trillion at net present value.* BusinessWeek this week used a perpetuity estimate and got an even more alarming $211 trillion for our total fiscal gap. The difference in those figures might give you pause about how real either of them is - as might the fact that BW's estimate is about $640,000 for every man woman and child alive in America today - and Gross acknowledges that even Meeker's lower $66 trillion is likely to turn out to be lower if we take steps to rein in costs. Still, those shoe-wearing liabilities look to be a multiple of the public debt that politicians have spent the last oh forever fighting about.
Gross is not that optimistic about how we're going to pay down either type of liability, though. Balancing the budget via GDP growth looks doubtful as even miserable current projections are based on 3% near-term GDP growth and current 2%-area interest rates, while actual growth has been lower and rates have to eventually go up. So he expects some version of destroying the value of your money: "unexpected" inflation, devaluation versus other currencies, and/or low real interest rates.
If the Treasury is borrowing money from you or PIMCO at .05% for the next six months and CPI inflation is averaging 3%, then lenders/savers are being shortchanged beyond even rather egregious historical examples. The burden of “sixteen tons” of debt á la Tennessee Ernie Ford is considerably reduced at 5 basis points of annual interest. “Loading” coal or debt in this case at near 0% yields doesn’t make the borrower another day older, nor deeper in debt. Actually it’s a shot of Botox for the borrower, but a shot of lead for the lender. Duck!
How does he plan to duck?
[Y]ou and PIMCO as savers and savings intermediaries can take precautionary or even retaliatory measures to preserve purchasing power. Favor countries with cleaner “dirty shirts” and higher real interest rates: Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Germany come to mind. Shade equity and fixed income investments away from dollar based indexes towards those of developing nations with stronger growth prospects. Purchase commodity based real assets before reserve surplus nations do. And above all, don’t be lulled to sleep by Congressional law makers that promise a change in Washington. The last change I believed in was on Election Day 2008, and that turned out to be more fiction than reality.
Kings of the Wild Frontier [Pimco]
* Here's Meeker's chart: