The Ides of March


Jon Reisman

The Ides (15th) of March mark the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. In Roman times, the Ides included religious observances and a civil/commercial tradition of settling debts.  What to do when a debt cannot be paid? Our term “bankruptcy” comes from the Italian ”banca rotta,” meaning “broken bench.” When an enterprise could not pay its debts, its place of business bench in the market was literally broken, to prevent further indebtedness and protect creditors. Of course, the broken bench owner also had little prospect of recovery, but bankruptcy law has always been more about protecting creditors than helping debtors, at least until late twentieth century America. 

Bankruptcy law reform in the United States featured an epic battle between a corrupt credit card company lobbyist/Democratic Senator from Delaware who would be elected President on his third try and an affirmative action abusing Harvard law professor who would become a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and a Presidential candidate challenging her Delaware colleague. The tale of two morally bankrupt Democrats clashing over reforming bankruptcy law might be the basis for a great Shakespearean play or Hollywoke movie, but whether it was a tragedy or a comedy would likely be in doubt.

Caesar’s assassination was at least metaphorically about extending debt settlement from the commercial to the political. Almost 2300 years later, our political and bureaucratic elites have racked up an enormous debt of dishonesty, disinformation and disrespect, not to mention $31 Trillion in national debt, which we have no hope of paying back. The only way that debt will be settled is by devaluing the dollar via inflation. That inflation has been stoked by the profligate spending of both parties and the past four presidents, but it is on the Delaware Senator’s sadly unobservant and disingenuous if not demented Presidential watch that the problem has become most visible and acute. Congress and the President have proven unwilling to reign in the deficit spending that has boosted the debt and nurtured inflation, so the job has fallen to the Federal Reserve (by definition a creditor tool and creation), which has belatedly raised interest rates in a so far largely unsuccessful effort to cool the economy. Right on cue, the fake Indian from Massachusetts showed up at a Senate hearing to castigate the Fed chair for doing the job she and her fellow Democrats refused to do (and indeed created the need for). Tragedy, comedy or both?

The $31 Trillion national debt (125% of annual GDP, exceeding the traditional indebtedness warning blinker of debt exceeding annual income) is bad enough and unlikely to ever be settled except by inflationary devaluation. Our political and bureaucratic elites have simultaneously racked up a record of lies and dishonesty that should result in their forced bankruptcies. The legacy of the blatantly dishonest and corrupt Covid, January 6th  and Ukraine narratives should be the revocation of the public health and political elites (especially Democrats, but there are plenty of guilty Republicans/UniParty members) credit and trust privileges. Like creditors throughout history, the American people should be protected from further debtor abuse. The public market place bench of our corrupt and dishonest political and bureaucratic elites must be broken. Public floggings might be appropriate. Beware the ides of March!

Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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