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But back to Trump. He went on to explain:

I said if we can buy back government debt at a discount – in other words, if interest rates go up and we can buy bonds back at a discount – if we are liquid enough as a country we should do that.

Apparently he was referring to the fact that when interest rates go up, long-term bonds at the lower rate become available on the secondary market at a discount. Anyone who holds the bonds to maturity still gets full value, but many investors want to cash out early and are willing to take less. As explained on MorningStar.com:

If a bond with a 5% coupon and a ten-year maturity is sold on the secondary market today while newly issued ten-year bonds have a 6% coupon, then the 5% bond will sell for $92.56 (par value $100).

But critics still were not satisfied. In an article titled “Why Donald Trump’s Debt Proposal Is Reckless,” CNNMoney said:

[T]he federal government doesn’t have any money to buy debt back with. The U.S. already has $19 trillion in debt. Trump’s plan would require the U.S. Treasury to issue new debt to buy old debt.

Trump, however, was not talking about borrowing the money. He was talking about printing the money. CNNMoney’s response was:

That can cause inflation (or even hyperinflation), and send prices of everything from food to rent skyrocketing.

The Hyperinflation that Wasn’t

CNN was not alone in calling the notion of printing our way out of debt recklessly inflationary. But would it be? The Federal Reserve has already bought $4.5 trillion in assets, $2.7 trillion of which were federal securities, simply by “printing the money.”

When the Fed’s QE program was initiated, critics called it recklessly hyperinflationary. But it did not even create the modest 2% inflation the Fed was aiming for. QE was combined with ZIRP – zero interest rates for banks – encouraging borrowing for speculation, driving up the stock market and real estate. But the Consumer Price Index, productivity and jobs barely budged.

While the Fed has stopped its QE program for the time being, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have jumped in, buying back massive amounts of their own governments’ debts by simply issuing the money. There too, the inflation needle has barely budged. As noted on CNBC in February:

Central banks have been pumping money into the global economy without a whole lot to show for it other than sharply higher stock prices, and even that has been on the downturn for the past year.

Growth remains anemic, and worries are escalating that the U.S. and the rest of the world are on the brink of a recession, despite bargain-basement interest rates and trillions in liquidity.

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