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Pandora’s Black Box

According to Greek mythology, Pandora opened a box that had been left in her husband’s care, releasing “sickness, death, and unspecified evils”. That was 700 B.C., which means the world has already survived some 2,723 years since the box was opened.

In 1945, the phrase “black box” was first used to describe a electrical box that did things – even though people were “without knowledge of its inner workings.” Of course, people are always afraid of what they don’t understand . . . like black boxes . . . like international finance.

If the U.S. cannot raise the debt ceiling and we default on our national debt, the resulting chaos is another black box. Nobody knows – FOR SURE – what will happen. After all, it has never happened before. You are now required to be afraid!

Is the debt ceiling debate stupid? Yes! If there is no fiscal agreement, is it possible we could default on our national debt? Yes! Is that the end of the world? Nobody knows, because it is a black box . . . but very unlikely. There are enough other players with vested interests in keeping us liquid. Half of the world has a vested interest in seeing the US stay solvent and . . . well, to hell with the other half.

If we need cash, the big banks have plenty. If we need even more cash, the US Treasury has big printing presses. If our national debt starts to collapse in value, the other central banks like the ECB, the Bank of England, and the rest will find it in their best interests to buy our bonds.

(It is remotely possible that Social Security and Veterans checks due on the first of month might be late going out, but receipts of second quarter estimated payments are due on June 15th and would be more than enough.)

If our big banks cannot backstop the dollar enough, then the foreign central banks can pitch in. It is inconceivable to me that would be insufficient, but China, Saudi Arabia, and even Russia might find a way to make a Mafia-style “sucker’s loan” to us . . . God forbid!

Do I know what is in the black box of the international financial markets? No. Even though I have a separate Master’s degree in international finance, I still don’t know everything that is in our black box, but I do know there are enough smart people who have been focused on this for years. In fact, I suspect the paperwork is ready to be signed. Yes, I’m confident the United States will still be here in another 2,723 years . . .

The real black box that nobody can understand is . . . our healthcare reimbursement systems, which makes the black box of international finance look like child’s play.