In The Mr. X Interviews: World Views from a Fictional US Sovereign Creditor, Luke Gromen recounts a conversation he has with a fictional US sovereign creditor to illustrate the current state of the United States’ economy, including why the US dollar is losing its power and what that will mean for Americans and people worldwide.
Gromen is the founder of FFTT, LLC (“Forest for the Trees”), a research firm catering to institutions and sophisticated individuals that aggregates a wide variety of macroeconomic, thematic, and sector trends in an unconventional manner to identify investable developing economic bottlenecks for his customers. His vision was to create a firm that would address the opportunity he saw created by applying what customers and former colleagues consistently described as a “unique ability to put the big picture pieces together” during a time when he saw an increasing “silo-ing” of perspectives occurring on Wall Street and in corporate America.
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Now in The Mr. X Interviews, he provides an opportunity to get a world view from an impartial person about the state of the economy. Although Mr. X is fictional, Gromen has clearly done his research into the reality of the world economy, citing numerous studies and articles by expert economists and politicians that back up his points about the US dollar’s future. This first volume of The Mr. X Interviews-a sequel is in the works-explores Gromen and Mr. X’s conversations in 2016-2017.
Gromen does not dance around his subject. Right from the start, Mr. X states, “The pace at which the USD-centric global monetary system is breaking down is accelerating dramatically.” He begins by looking at the petrodollar from 1973 to 2014 when oil was only priced in USD globally and why the non-US world tolerated it. Now that is no longer the case. Mr. X states: “What nation would not lend to Saudi or supply Saudi’s social needs in exchange for the right to price Saudi oil in its own currency? Do you think any nation would decline that offer?” He goes on to explain that Americans must not forget that it was oil that chose the dollar as the world’s monopoly reserve currency for oil, not the other way around, and that the world can “unchoose” it.
Next, Mr. X goes on to explain why the Fed’s policies were totally discredited after 2008 because “the policies they implemented in the United States in response to the crisis were nothing in severity like those implemented in Russia in the mid-1990s, in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, or in Argentina in the early 2000s. It was, like the protestor’s sign said, ‘Capitalism for the poor (EM/creditor economies) and socialism for the rich (the US economy.)’ That caught creditor nations’ attention; we knew we needed the system to change.”
Mr. X goes on to tackle the currency war and its relation to gold and oil. Ultimately, he predicts a crisis coming and that crisis is needed to drive changes that will be for the good of all in the world (except Washington politicians and lobbyists). This crisis will be driven by five historically-unique factors that no one alive has ever seen before: Demographics, Geology, Debt, Economic Reality, and the Repeated Weaponization of the Dollar. He explains, “Because throughout history, all sovereigns eventually default once debts get too high. Always. They may nominally default or they may default in real terms (i.e., via inflation), but they always default. There is no sovereign that has never defaulted.” He goes on to make it clear that even the United States has defaulted and gives examples.
No doubt, the United States is already in deep economic trouble, and Gromen states that is evidenced by “flyover country” US residents dying early from drug and alcohol abuse and suicide out of economic hopelessness. Solutions, however, exist. Economists are fearful that President Trump will devalue the US currency, but Mr. X goes on to explain that “only when FDR, Winston Churchill, and other political leaders of the day stopped listening to the orthodox economists of the day and began acting on their own to devalue their currencies that the worst economic aspects of the last global sovereign debt crisis (in the 1930s) began to recede.” He also clarifies that Roosevelt’s advisors were against him taking the United States off the gold standard, “But in the days after the Roosevelt decision, as the dollar fell against gold, the stock market soared by 15%. Financial markets gave the move an overwhelming vote of confidence.”
Ultimately, the debt burden faced by Americans is seen by Gromen and Mr. X as the number one threat facing the United States. They back this up by quoting Michael Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that the greatest threat to US National Security was not terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, or global warming, but the US Federal debt. Ultimately, Gromen argues that the only way to resolve this issue is for the USD to be devalued.
Much more could be said about The Mr. X Interviews, but I’ll leave it up to readers to discover all the fine points of the argument. I will simply say that Gromen has written a meticulously researched and well-argued book that is comprehensible, a little shocking, and highly educational. Not every reader may agree with it, but regardless, it behooves all Americans to understand our nation’s financial situation and to urge our representatives to resolve it before we find ourselves in a greater financial crisis.
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