17 Aug 2016 Howard Marks Memo: Political Reality ( Portfolio )

Trump’s most unrealistic claim: that he could trim the federal debt by negotiating the ability to pay it off at a reduced amount. He built his net worth in part by borrowing money and not paying it back, and he seems proud of his companies’ repeated use of bankruptcy as a strategic tool. But Trump doesn’t have an ongoing need to tap the world capital markets, as the U.S. does (he now operates under an asset-lite business model that emphasizes licensing fees rather than asset ownership; perhaps this is because his multiple defaults have caused the credit window to be closed to him). The United States could refuse to pay its debts in full – that’s called “rescheduling” or “default” – but we’d be unlikely to have the same access to the credit markets, and we would certainly cease to enjoy the benefits of a high credit rating and resulting low interest rates.