After World War II, the dollar became the world’s preeminent currency. Convertible to gold at $35 an ounce, it was the backbone of international trade. Foreign central banks used it to back their own currencies.
Nixon removed the dollar’s convertibility to gold in 1971, rendering its value dependent on prudent management by its issuer. That issuer, of course, is the Federal Reserve—which conjures dollars into existence to support the US government’s spending habit.
The Fed has issued a lot of dollars since 1971, and even more since the financial crisis of 2008—thanks to Washington’s exploding debt levels. And it’s only going to get worse, as even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admits in its own forecasts.
What’s more, CBO debt estimates are notoriously overoptimistic; so while they are daunting, reality will likely be worse. To paint a realistic picture of future US debt levels, I added 20% to the CBO’s forecast, illustrated here: