$17 Trillion U.S. National Debt? Try $211 Trillion

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,321.75, EUR 978.71 and GBP 824.34 per ounce.
Friday’s AM fix was USD 1,355.25, EUR 1,002.18 and GBP 845.39 per ounce

Gold dropped $39.30 or 2.92% Friday, closing at $1,325.30/oz. Silver slid $1.27 or 5.84%, closing at $21.74. At 3:32 EDT Friday, Platinum fell $31.30 or 2.1% to $1,427.50/oz, while palladium slipped $18.53 or 2.5% to $713.97 /oz. Gold was up 0.16% and silver was down 2.03% on the week.

Gold has been up and down in choppy trading in London today as investors digest the U.S. Fed's decision to wait on tapering until perhaps next month. Comments on Friday from James Bullard, the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President affected the markets.  He said, “a reduction of the Fed's $85 billion monthly bond purchase program beginning in October was possible and that the Fed can be patient in deciding when to scale back its pace of asset purchases”.

In Germany’s elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel is on her way for a third term as German leader after her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) scored its best federal election result since 1990. However, it appears likely she has lost her coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) as they failed to secure the required 5% threshold necessary and will be without Bundestag representation for the first time in its 65-year history.

Gold in USD - 5 Year  (Bloomberg)

Gold is finding support by the increasing consensus that the current Federal Reserve Vice Chair, Janet Yellen, will take over from Bernanke. Gold got a boost Thursday after a senior White House official's remarked that Yellen is a leading candidate to replace Bernanke when he steps down.

Yellen, a strong supporter of Bernanke's policies, should keep U.S. interest rates low for an extended period of time and she is very dovish, contrary to recent revisionism. 

The U.S. national debt continues to surge higher every day and is now at $16.95 trillion and will soon surpass the $17 trillion mark.

Gold in GBP - 5 Year  (Bloomberg)

When Standard & Poor's reduced the U.S.’s credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, it was the first time the U.S. ever suffered a downgrade to its credit rating. The S&P took this action despite the plan Congress passed last week to raise the debt limit.

The downgrade, S&P said, "reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics."

It's those medium- and long-term debt problems that also worry economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, who served as a senior economist on President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers. He says the national debt, which the U.S. Treasury has accounted at about $14 trillion, is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We have all these unofficial debts that are massive compared to the official debt," Kotlikoff tells David Greene, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. "We're focused just on the official debt, so we're trying to balance the wrong books."

Kotlikoff explains that America's "unofficial" payment obligations — like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits — jack up the debt figure substantially.

Laurence J. Kotlikoff served as a senior economist on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers and is a professor of economics at Boston University

"If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That's the fiscal gap," he says. "That's our true indebtedness."

We don't hear more about this enormous number, Kotlikoff says, because politicians have chosen their language carefully to keep most of the problem off the books.

"Why are these guys thinking about balancing the budget?" he says. "They should try and think about our long-term fiscal problems."

According to Kotlikoff, one of the biggest fiscal problems Congress should focus on is America's obligation to make Social Security payments to future generations of the elderly.

"We've got 78 million baby boomers who are poised to collect, in about 15 to 20 years, about $40,000 per person. Multiply 78 million by $40,000 — you're talking about more than $3 trillion a year just to give to a portion of the population," he says. "That's an enormous bill that's overhanging our heads, and Congress isn't focused on it."

"We've consistently done too little too late, looked too short-term, said the future would take care of itself, we'll deal with that tomorrow," he says. "Well, guess what? You can't keep putting off these problems."

To eliminate the fiscal gap, Kotlikoff says, the U.S. would have to have tax increases and spending reductions far beyond what's being negotiated right now in Washington.

"What you have to do is either immediately and permanently raise taxes by about two-thirds, or immediately and permanently cut every dollar of spending by 40 percent forever. The [Congressional Budget Office's] numbers say we have an absolutely enormous problem facing us."

$211 trillion is a lot of debt. If you find Kotlikoff's remarks alarming then take time out to download our 'Comprehensive Guide to Investing in Gold'. Better to be informed about the investment decisions you can make to protect your wealth and your future.


Gold in EUR - 5 Day  (Bloomberg)

UBS has updated their short-term gold targets today, increasing their one-month forecast to $1,450/oz from $1,250/oz and three-month to $1,375/oz from $1,350/oz citing the U.S. Fed's decision not to reduce its QE program as positive for gold. Additionally the U.S. fiscal and debt ceiling debates are imminent. Oct. 1st is the U.S. government shutdown date to be avoided and the market rhetoric will increase gold's safe haven status. Finally, UBS analyst Edel Tully noted the upcoming wedding and festival season in India followed by the Chinese Lunar New Year will all increase physical demand for the yellow metal.