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The U.S. National Debt: Can The Federal Reserve Perform Fiscal Alchemy Forever?

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off

In the year 2000, as George W. Bush assumed the role of 43rd president of the United States, America’s national debt stood at $ 5.7 trillion, while the annual GDP was $10.7 trillion. Now, fourteen years later, with the U.S. GDP standing at $16.2 trillion, the gross national debt exceeds $17.5 trillion. The numbers are so massive, they numb our consciousness and render America’s fiscal reality incomprehensible. Thus explains the lack of public arousal over the size of the country’s federal government debt. What cannot be understood-or explained- is deemed irrelevant to the public at large. After all, what impact could the nation’s archaic fiscal bookkeeping have in the lives of the average citizen?

History, however, teaches a very different lesson. The historical record on the rise and fall of major powers reveals more often than not that the sovereign’s fiscal insolvency is more likely to lead to its demise than military defeat. Witness the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the British and French empires in the last half of the twentieth century.

A look at the statistics of the U.S. national debt tells a story of fiscal nirvana. Between  2000 and 2014 America’s GDP grew, in nominal terms, by 51 percent. In that same period, the national debt increased by more than 200 percent.  In other words, during the past decade and a half, the U.S. national debt has grown at four times the rate of its national economy. This would appear to be an unsustainable expansion of the national debt, yet there appears to be no obvious signs of economic or financial crisis afflicting the nation, despite the clear fiscal trajectory.

Appearances are deceiving, owing to a unique institution, the Federal Reserve, and equally unique status of the American dollar as the  global reserve currency. The unprecedented interventions  enacted by the Federal Reserve since the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in 2008, including quantitative easing and debt monetization, have had the effect of artificially depressing interest rates the U.S. Treasury pays on its debt instruments. At times, America’s bonds have sold widely on the global debt market, despite paying near zero interest rates. To put this monetary and fiscal alchemy into perspective, in 2000 the U.S. made $362 billion in interest payments; the figure for 2013 was $415 billion, despite the national debt that year being three times larger than in 2000. Factoring in the growth in the federal budget over that same period, the proportion of federal outlays devoted to debt servicing costs in 2013 was actually significantly lower than was the case in 2000.

What this all means is that the United States has no fiscal problem, as long as the Federal Reserve can maintain artificially low interest rates in perpetuity. Failing that, when interest rates return to normal levels, America’s fiscal reality will become mathematically unsustainable, leading to a profound budgetary crisis. When that happens cannot be predicted, but it is a matter of metaphysical certainty that it will, and when that dreaded day occurs, it will be beyond the capacity of Washington’s policymakers, including the Federal Reserve, to conjure up a solution devoid of pain.

 
 

If Hillary Clinton runs for President of the United States  in 2016, see the video about the book that warned back in 2008 what a second Clinton presidency would mean for the USA:

 

 

 

CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW VIDEO

Hillary Clinton Nude

Hillary Clinton Nude

 

Why I Predict a Global Economic Depression by 2012 in My New Book

November 11th, 2009 Comments off

Economics is a social science, not an exact science.  Theories on how a nation’s economy and financial system should function  proliferate the body politic, ranging from Reagonomics to Keynesian pump-priming. However, as the past year’s global economic crisis has demonstrated, dogmas and theories, such as market fundamentalism, are largely impotent in the face of brutal economic realities. It was not out of conformity with a particular economic dogma, but rather sheer panic, which drove  key policymakers in major advanced and developing economies throughout the world to plunge their nations into unprecedented levels of public debt, all in a frantic effort aimed at halting the free fall collapse of the global financial system that had erupted after the downfall of the investment bank Lehman Brothers.

One year later, throughout the world and especially in the United States, political decision makers are proclaiming to their constituents that the worst of the economic crisis is behind us, “green shoots,” in the words of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, are starting to emerge, and the stock market has regained much of its losses. Yet, as Wall Street awards record bonuses to many of its stakeholders, unemployment in the U.S. and other developed countries continues to rise, while the credit crunch constricts small and medium size businesses. Amid the contradictory images regarding the Great Recession, I have written “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015:Recession Into Depression,” http://www.createspace.com/3403422 , in which I look at the likely economic trends over the next 5 years. As the title suggests, my projection is not an optimistic one.

While the trillions of dollars poured into the global financial system by the United States and other sovereigns did prevent a total financial collapse in late 2008, this achievement has not come without a high cost, and growing danger.  The level of public debt being accumulated by governments across the globe in response to the global economic crisis, and especially in the U.S., will reach a point of unsustainability, likely by 2012. This will occur simultaneously with continuing high rates of unemployment, which equates with weak consumer demand. The United States is dependent on the American consumer for at least 70% of GDP output. Overleveraged and underemployed consumers dampen growth prospects and  retard government tax revenues. While public finances remain weak, policymakers will likely maintain stimulus spending programs, which translates into structural mega-deficits. The Congressional Budget Office is currently projecting a $9 trillion deficit over the next decade; based on the CBO’s past record, this is likely a lowball estimate.

In my look at the probable economic trajectory for the U.S. and other major economies over the next five years, I had to confront the strong possibility that amid America’s growing fiscal imbalance, there exists a serious danger of future shocks to the global financial system, which may possibly rival the implosion of the investment banks which occurred in 2008. During the next two years, $2 trillion in commercial real estate loans will come due. These were loans initiated when commercial properties were at their peak valuation, and largely securitized, as was the case with subprime loans that triggered the financial crisis in 2008. Should a commercial real estate implosion replicate the carnage that the banking system experienced in 2008, how will sovereign governments, the United States in particular, find the money to finance another financial system bailout? My conclusion is that it will not be mathematically possible for the U.S. and other governments to sustain a future rescue of the banking system. In essence, sovereign  governments will become overwhelmed with public debt, reaching a point of fiscal collapse. The result will be sovereign insolvency, leading to a synchronized global depression.

In his farewell address to the nation in January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned his countrymen about the long-term consequences of soaring public debt. Mortgaging the assets of future generations, Eisenhower believed, could transform today’s democracy into tomorrow’s “insolvent phantom.” In the midst of our current economic crisis, it would be wise to pay heed to the sage advice that President Eisenhower offered nearly half a century ago.

 

For More Information on “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015” please go to the homepage of our website, http://www.globaleconomiccrisis.com   

Is The United States Too Big To Fail?

April 29th, 2009 Comments off
In 1970 Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik wrote a highly controversial book entitled, “Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984?” The book was vociferously criticized by Kremlinologists, who maintained that the mighty USSR, superpower rival to the United States, was simply “too big to fail.” Back in 1970, it was considered the height of lunacy to envision the demise of the Soviet colossus.
Well, Amalrik was off by seven years, but otherwise he was remarkably prescient. How was it possible for him to be correct and the legions of Soviet experts so wrong? The primary reason is that Andrei Amalrik understood what the so-called experts did not; there is no such thing as “too big to fail.” That applies to countries and empires as well as companies. The United States of America included.
The Global Economic Crisis has savaged the economy of the U.S. along with much of the rest of the world. In response to the most severe economic contraction America has experienced since the Great Depression, the Obama administration is going into debt to fund massive economic stimulus programs. Yet, as extravagant as those stimulus programs may appear on the surface, they are marginal in comparison with the trillions of taxpayer dollars both the Bush and Obama administrations have made available to subsidize Wall Street and the major actors in the financial industry, to in effect save them from the consequences of their own follies. The mantra of both the current and previous administrations is that these Wall Street entities are “too big to fail,” meaning if they are not provided with whatever taxpayer-funded credit they demand, a systemic financial collapse would ensue.
The price being demanded-and obtained-by the oligarchs of Wall Street, combined with the economic demand destruction unleashed by their reckless greed is expanding the national debt of the United States at a frightening pace. An example of this disastrous fiscal trend is the recent announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department that for the second quarter of 2009 the United States government will need to borrow $361 billion to pay its bills, compared with $13 billion for the same period in 2008. For all of 2008, the U.S. budget deficit was approximately $455 billion; in the third quarter alone of 2009 it is projected to be $515 billion, and that is probably an overly optimistic estimate.

In addition to the $750 billion TARP program to bailout banks and Wall Street that was approved last October by Congress, untold trillions of dollars have been provided or promised to the financial industry by Treasury and the Federal Reserve, off the books of the official budget. A most recent estimate puts this figure up to $13 trillion, nearly equal the entire GDP of the United States. The official national debt of the U.S. now tops $11 trillion, and may surpass the GDP within two years. In addition, state, county and local governments across the country are sinking into an ocean of red ink. In effect, the entire credit worthiness of the United States has become the “lender of last resort” for the “too big to fail” entities. The financial elites of America are no doubt uncorking their champagne bottles, as their privileged excesses are held whole through the ultimate backstop; the indebtedness of not only the current generation of Americans, but also their children and perhaps even their grandchildren. It appears that the oligarchs are so devoid of historical understanding, they fail to recognize that this subsidization of their Wall Street empire of credit default swaps and gargantuan compensation packages can only be sustained if the United States can forever go into debt. And in order to believe that the U.S. is ultimately “too big to fail,” they have to be equally ignorant of basic mathematics, the ultimate irony for the supposed magicians of high finance.

But what if a point is reached when the rest of the world is no longer willing to lend its scarce capital to the United States, and subsidize its Wall Street bailouts and extravagant military industrial complex? No doubt, the oligarchs would then use their political muscle to enact higher taxation on middle income Americans. This may come in the form of higher consumption taxes; however, a growing possibility is the hidden tax of inflation. A dirty secret that is increasingly being discussed by economists in quiet corners is that there is no way the United States can possibly pay for the servicing of its massive, expanding national debt without resorting to inflation.

What the financial and political elites have not analyzed are the consequences for America’s social cohesion and viability should the nation’s exploding debt burst beyond the point of containment. For unlike AIG, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the United States does not have the option of calling upon others to rescue it from its own excesses, with the justification being that it is “too big to fail.”

It strikes me that most Americans, not only the financial elites but across the nation’s social fabric, have a distorted image of how their country fits in with the rest of the world amid the Global Economic Crisis. In a chilling parallel to our times, Amalrik writes about the paralysis of isolation as a factor that would eventually bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1970 he wrote, “This isolation has created for all—from the bureaucratic elite to the lowest social levels—an almost surrealistic picture of the world and of their place in it. Yet the longer this state of affairs helps to perpetuate the status quo, the more rapid and decisive will be its collapse when confrontation with reality becomes inevitable.”

For More Information on “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015” please go to the homepage of our website, http://www.globaleconomiccrisis.com