U.S. Debt-to-GDP Ratio This Year to Surpass Greece’s 2009 “Danger” Level
Friday, March 15th, 2013
By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential
The U.S. Department of the Treasury reported that the U.S. government incurred a deficit of $204 billion for the month of February 2013. So far, we are into the first five months of the government’s fiscal year (started October 1, 2012), and the U.S. government fiscal deficit has already grown by $494 billion. (Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, March 13, 2013.)
The U.S. government has been running a deficit of over $1.0 trillion in each of the past four years. For 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the deficit to be $845 billion—which is less than a trillion-dollar budget. (Source: The Hill, February 5, 2013.)
(But if I pro-rate the $494 billion the government has already tagged on this year, a rate of $99.0 billion a month, I get another $1.0-trillion deficit year.)
Sadly, while many are taking “less” deficit as good news, our national debt is still growing. Remember: when the government doesn’t have money to spend, it must borrow. The budget deficit for this year is going to see the U.S. national debt increase to well above $17.0 trillion.
In February, the U.S. government paid interest of $16.8 billion on the debt it has borrowed through issuing bonds. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, it has incurred interest expenses of $168.4 billion.
I don’t think the mainstream realizes that the more the government adds to the national debt through budget deficits, the more interest payments it will have to make. This year it expects to pay almost half a trillion dollars in interest. This amount will rise as the national debt increases and interest rates increase. Eventually, the U.S. government will go into a downward spiral when interest payments become a major part of its monthly outlays.
With all this said, if the staggering municipal bankruptcies force states to look for bailouts from the U.S. government, then you, dear reader, be the judge of where the national debt will go. (And I haven’t even mentioned the trillion-dollar student loan crisis!)
It might sound crazy today as we witness the stock market move to new highs, but what I do see happening, as the U.S. national debt increases, is the possibility of austerity measures, similar to those implemented in the debt-infested eurozone. At the end of the day, whatever money the government borrows, the taxpayers are the ones on the hook for it.
With national debt currently standing at $16.7 trillion, each taxpayer in the U.S. owes more than $147,000. (Source: U.S. Debt Clock web site, last accessed March 14, 2013.) Imagine what happens when the national debt reaches $20.0 trillion!
Greece’s troubles started in 2009, when its national debt topped 113% of its gross domestic product (GDP). With U.S. GDP expected to be $15.0 trillion this year, and with our national debt at $17.0 trillion, the U.S.’s national debt will hit—you guessed it—113% of GDP in 2013.
China’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of inflation, increased 3.2% in February from a year earlier. In January, inflation in the Chinese economy was running at two percent. (Source: Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2013.)
The governor of the Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, said, “The central bank has been paying high attention to inflation and we will stabilize inflation expectations via monetary policies.” He added, “February CPI was slightly higher than expectations, suggesting that we need to keep vigilant on inflation.” (Source: “China Central Ban Warns on Inflation, Pledges Reform,” Reuters, March 13, 2013.)
Just like the Federal Reserve, the Bank of China has been using its easy monetary policy tactics to rev up the economy. In 2012, the Chinese economy grew at a rate of 7.8%—much slower than what it has done in past.
Inflation, while not visible now according to the official statistics, will eventually take a toll on the U.S. economy, courtesy of our loose monetary policy. Just look at how much paper money has been printed in the past four years and where our economy is today—three rounds of quantitative easing and a continued $85.0-billion-a-month printing program, plus all the stimulus packages.
In January of 2012, the M2 money supply (a measure of money in circulation), was $9.72 trillion. By January of 2013, it had increased to $10.44 trillion. (Source: Federal Reserve, March 7, 2013.)
Easy monetary policy builds up inflationary pressures—the longer these policies stay in place, the higher the inflation is going to be. Once the inflation strengthens here in the U.S., prices will increase significantly for already “fragile” consumers.
Let’s never forget: consumer spending in the U.S. economy makes up about 70% of gross domestic product (GDP). If inflation increases, the U.S. consumers will simply spend less, thus depressing economic growth.
Right now, the official inflation numbers say we don’t have inflation in the U.S.; but we do have bleak consumer spending, falling real incomes, stagnant consumer savings, and millions of Americans on food stamps. Imagine what will happen when inflation does hit!
Where the Market Stands; Where It’s Headed:
It’s actually ridiculous.
The government needs money to pay its bills, because it doesn’t have enough money coming in. The government issues T-bills to get the money it needs to cover its deficit, and the Federal Reserve prints paper money and gives it to the government as it buys the T-bills.
Through the creation of even more money, the Federal Reserve takes mortgage-backed securities off the books of big American banks; these same banks get real cash in return for their illiquid mortgage-backed securities. And what do the banks do with the newly printed cash? Well, I don’t see banks lending more to businesses and consumers. But I do see them starting to buy back their stock, pushing the stock market higher.
How can all this end nicely?
What He Said:
“Home-building in the U.S. will enter a quasi depression state in 2008 and the construction industry will make 2008 a record year for pink slips. I predict a major homebuilder will go bankrupt in 2008.” Michael Lombardi in Profit Confidential, January 10, 2008. WCI Communities, the largest U.S. luxury home builder at the time, filed for Chapter 11 protection on August 4, 2008.