The Shutdown Is a Sideshow. Debt Is the Threat

tags: debt ceiling, government shutdown



Niall Ferguson's latest book is "The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die" (Penguin Press, 2013).

In the words of a veteran investor, watching the U.S. bond market today is like sitting in a packed theater and smelling smoke. You look around for signs of other nervous sniffers. But everyone else seems oblivious.

Yes, the federal government shut down this week. Yes, we are just two weeks away from the point when the Treasury secretary says he will run out of cash if the debt ceiling isn't raised. Yes, bond king Bill Gross has been on TV warning that a default by the government would be "catastrophic." Yet the yield on a 10-year Treasury note has fallen slightly over the past month (though short-term T-bill rates ticked up this week).

Part of the reason people aren't rushing for the exits is that the comedy they are watching is so horribly fascinating. In his vain attempt to stop the Senate striking out the defunding of ObamaCare from the last version of the continuing resolution, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz managed to quote Doctor Seuss while re-enacting a scene from the classic movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."...



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