Congressional Budget Office
If you’re anything like us, you may have reached the conclusions that:
- Our elected officials are charting a course to a fiscal disaster.
- The Fed is repeating past mistakes by setting us up for another bust.
After the drama of the debt ceiling debate and the Fed’s non-tapering surprise, we see no reason to doubt these views. But the latest developments got us thinking, and we have an unusual proposal.
Dispassionate discussion of some of the vexing issues.
Some confidence tricks have characteristics that don’t quite fit the Fonz. Take the swindles known as Ponzi schemes. These are tricks that need an endless supply of participants to sustain confidence and stay alive. Once the participant pool depletes as it eventually must, the tricks are revealed as scams. Whereas Fonzies can persist indefinitely (at least in theory), Ponzis eventually collapse. Note that the U.S. has already passed its Ponzi point by Minsky’s definition. According to Minsky, borrowing qualifies as Ponzi finance whenever fresh issuance is needed to fund interest on existing debt. Based on the common assumption that the U.S. would miss its interest payments without regular increases in the statutory debt limit, this is indeed the case
So what exactly did Reid know and when?
- *UNITED STATES' AAA IDR RATING MAY BE CUT BY FITCH :3352Z US
- FITCH SAYS PUTS U.S. ON RATING WATCH NEGATIVE AS U.S. AUTHORITIES HAVE NOT RAISED FEDERAL DEBT CEILING IN A "TIMELY MANNER
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES RESOLVING US RWN BY END OF 1Q '14 AT LATEST
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH REVERTING TO 2.25% AFTER 2017
Would Obama push his pals off a cliff to get a deal?
The Chief Economist at Citi Willem Butler has said today on CBC in an interview that the fiasco over the US budget and the lack of money is nothing more than irresponsible on all political wings and that the country is being run by Munchkins in the Land of Oz.
The major headline of the day is the pending government shutdown in the Land of the Free. This is nothing more than an obvious symptom that they have passed the point of no return. As we have routinely discussed, the US government now fails to collect enough tax revenue to pay interest on the debt and cover mandatory entitlement spending. They’re already in the hole before they write a single check for anything we consider ‘government’, from national parks to the Internal Revenue Service. Basically all the stuff that will be shut down now. Unless you missed your IRS agent today, it should be clear that all this stuff they waste money on is completely... unnecessary. Or can/should be privatized.
There may be temporary 'benefits in terms of employment gains' if the Fed creates an even more gigantic echo bubble than it has already done. We are willing to grant that much. The Fed apparently believes these days that there should be no limits whatsoever to the Fed's monetary pumping. 'Inflation' targets? Forget about it! Asset bubbles? Who cares! It is as if the past 20 years had not happened – as if they had simply erased the whole period from his memory. Do they really believe that pumping up another giant bubble will have more benefits than drawbacks? Where does it all end? However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there cannot be an 'eternal boom' by simply continuing to print, as once envisaged by Keynes. All that will happen is that the ultimate disaster will be even greater. In fact, is seems ever more likely that the next disaster will be the last one of the current monetary system.
With a government's October 1 shut down - temporary of course - now seemingly inevitable, and more importantly with the peak debt ceiling negotiations due in just about a week after which point the Treasury will run out of money, many wonder what comes next. That this is happening just two short years after the dramatic August 2011 debt ceiling impasse, when the market tumbled 20% and likely slowed economic growth is still fresh in everyone's mind, is hardly helping matters. Add a potential political crisis in Greece and Italy, and suddenly a whole lot of unexpected variables have to be "priced in."
Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and when it comes to health care he has definitely kept his promise. As a result of Obamacare, health care spending is up, health insurance premiums are up, the number of hours Americans are working is down and employer-based health insurance is becoming an endangered species. Of course employer-based health insurance will not disappear completely any time soon, but it has been steadily shrinking for over a decade, and Obamacare will greatly accelerate that decline. So Americans are going to pay more, get worse care, have more paperwork and a more complicated system, and they are likely to die younger too? Wow, that sounds like a great deal.
In a tight 217-210 vote, The House voted this evening to 'taper' food stamps by $39 billion over the next decade. This bill - setting up a showdown with Senate Democrats - cuts nearly twice as much as a bill that was rejected in June, and, as USA Today reports, dramatically larger than the $4.5 billion 'trim' that was passed by the Senate earlier in the year. The bill would cause 3 million people to lose benefits while another 850,000 would see their benefits cut, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans argued that the bill would restore the program's original eligibility limits and preserve the safety net for the truly needy. The White House threatened Wednesday to veto the bill, calling food stamps one of the "nation's strongest defenses against hunger and poverty." Of course, as long as the Dow is trading at all-time highs, it doesn't really matter... since the number of people on Food stamps in the US is already greater than the population of Spain!
In light of this morning's Obama-Boehner volleys, we thought a reflection on the facts was useful. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook yesterday morning, and its government debt projections are dismal... But the CBO’s featured chart only tells a small part of the story. The baseline scenario happens to be bogus. Even as it shows our addiction to debt worsening, it doesn’t do justice to the severity of that addiction. (You may want to show the chart to your children. After all, they’ll be the ones who’ll have to deal with the debt we’re piling on today.)
- Fed likely to reduce bond buying, pass policy milestone (Reuters)
- Fall in Home Loans Pushing Fed Away From Taper in Mortgage Bonds (BBG)
- Russia says U.N. report on Syria attack preconceived, political (Reuters)
- China House Price Surge Raises Prospect of Steps to Cool Market (FT)
- Cyprus Plans to Complete End of All Capital Controls... some time in 2014 (FT)
- GOP Reworks Budget Terms (WSJ)
- U.S. Navy was warned that Washington shooter 'heard voices' (Reuters)
- Berlusconi Impeachment Vote Looms (WSJ)
- Ageing could weaken central banks, spur rate volatility (Reuters)
This chart seems to sum up our fiscal challenges as well as anything else...
Political activity related to reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has picked up over the last few months and additional legislative activity is expected this fall. As Goldman notes, while there is still substantial political disagreement, a loose consensus has begun to emerge on some issues. However, despite somewhat greater agreement on certain aspects of GSE reform, lawmakers still face a basic dilemma. Housing finance reform has languished in large part because of the disagreement over the appropriate federal role, as well as a concern that reform would ultimately lead to an increase in borrowing costs. Recent GSE reform proposals such as Corker-Warner appear to have attracted support by calling for high levels of private capital. However, such high levels of capital would require a return to investors, increasing borrowing costs. Overall, Goldman's expectation continues to be that GSE reform is unlikely to be enacted this year or next.