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Contagion’ and Other Euro Myths

EurosJohn H. Cochrane
12/2/2010

Cochrane considers the lessons to be learned from Europe’s recent bailouts. He argues that restructuring short-term debt as long-term debt would hardly be the end of the world. Our governments have also guaranteed trillions of dollars of debt–everything from mortgages to student loans, to say nothing of implicit guarantees to banks and state and local governments. These guarantees don’t show up anywhere on the books, but investors could start adding them up very quickly. Remember that Ireland got into trouble by guaranteeing bank debt. US government debt is also remarkably tilted to short maturities, with the majority being rolled over every year. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing will tilt us further to shorter debt.

Cochrane is a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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