Sunday, April 12, 2009

Observations On The U.S. Debt

Some observations on the total U.S. debt (the number are conservative) without commentary. The total is subject to interpretation and the probabilistic treatment of contingent liabilities and guarantees as well as the netting of derivative notionals.

Total US Debt so far: $115 - $315 Trillion dollars? (excluding/including derivatives notional)

$380,000 - $1,037,000 per person.

The break out:

$9.7 Trillion in bailouts
$11 Trillion in national debt
$17 Trillion in corporate/financial debt, and $13.8 Trillion in household debt
$1 Trillion in credit card debt
$10.5 Trillion in mortgages
$52 Trillion in social security/medicare obligations
Like other government trust funds (highway, unemployment insurance and so forth), the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds exist purely for accounting purposes: to keep track of surpluses and deficits in the inflow and outflow of money. The accumulated Social Security surplus actually consists of paper certificates (non-negotiable bonds) kept in a filing cabinet in a government office in West Virginia. These bonds cannot be sold on Wall Street or to foreign investors. They can only be returned to the Treasury. In essence, they are little more than IOUs the government writes to itself.
$200 Trillion in U.S. bank derivatives (notional)

Total excluding derivatives: $115 Trillion
Total including derivatives: $315 Trillion

In budgetary context:

$2.3 Trillion budget deficit this year, $10 Trillion in the next 10 years.

In the context of the consumer balance sheet:

$20.5 Trillion of residential real estate
$8.8 Trillion of equities
$7.7 Trillion of deposits and cash
$4.1 Trillion of consumer durable goods
$1.6 Trillion of corporate bonds
$960 Billion of municipal securities
$920 Billion of agency paper
$273 Billion of treasury notes and bonds

Total: $44.9 Trillion

My question is: everyone knows the social security underfunding can not be funded - it is a matter of 10 years at most before we hit the SS wall... and yet we brush it under the carpet. Does this mean we have 10 years at best before the economy collapses and thus we will just speculate on increasing market volatility, gambling more and more each day, until the emperor's clothes are revealed? What are the unintended consequences of trading for the sake of trading and increasing volatility?What happens after the SocSec obligations can no longer be postponed. Is this a problem that can be inflated as well, and is the magnitude of the inflation necessary to plug a $50 trillion domestic hole too big for the global financial system? Also, is the $1.2 quadrillion in listed and OTC derivatives (essentially vol bets) which is an unprecedented number, a direct inferrence of the increasing desire by all market participants merely to speculate instead of invest?

(for commenters, i bring your attention to the fact noted above that these numbers are subject to interpretation - this is merely meant to provide a frame of reference for the U.S. problem)
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71 comments:

Daniel said...

If you take the $115T, subtract the $52T in future obligations, you have $63T. That's a lot closer to $44.9T. Also, the $9.7T is guarantees, not actual debt YET. So that's more like $45T in consumer assets to $53T in government debt.

I get how this can be much worse, but it's not like the US can just owe the $200T in derivatives. Unless you're assuming the banks fail and the government makes the counterparties 100% whole. Which, while we've seen this, even the US government has a point at which it can do no more.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Pelosi and Bush repealed the 10 year tax on citizens that expatriate. There'll be confiscatory levels of taxes to pay for this idiocy.

They'll probably also have to start a VAT at the federal level and boost sales and property taxes at state levels. You can beat those by moving off shore, even if you don't expatriate.

J.D. Swampfox said...

It seems likely that the 10.5 in mortgages is previously counted in 17.0 corporate and 13.8 household debt.

In Debt We Trust said...

Not a problem - I am sure the US authorities will find a way to use more off balance sheet tricks. After all, wasn't it Western bankers who invented the "shadow banking system?"

Anonymous said...

Debt and deficits don't matter. Want proof?

Over the last 30 years, and more acutely, over the last 6 months the US has taken on more debt and is incurring more deficit spending than ever before -- by far. And yet its cost of long term, medium term and short term borrowing has declined dramatically.

Maybe if the US took on even more debt we'd reach a point where bondholders pay interest to the government.

maximus said...

TD

Marc Faber's most recent post seems to go along with yours here.

Its one of my BEST for the week, which can be found at

http://4best4worst.wordpress.com/

I figured since you are becoming the internet's favorite blog site, and we found you early on, I would try to find a few other hidden gems....

doesn't change how great and important your site has become. Please keep it coming.

Maximus
http://4best4worst.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

from Clusterstock

Obama Bank Fix "Worse Than A Lie" -- Former Regulator Black

http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-g-2009-4

Paul W said...

I'd love to be investing, but in this environment, only speculative positioning seems rational. Until we return to a state where fundamentals drive price over reasonable time horizons, without excessive risk in the interim, it is hard to invest.

k said...

maximus stop whoring out your horrible blog dude...Ive seen you on multiple blogs just STOP.

ckaltner said...

Frightening that on the consumer side 3/4 of the assets (real estate & equities) can have their value bounce around like a yo-yo.

scriabinop23 said...

Soc security and medicare are not liabilities in the strictest sense. They are wealth transfer programs.

When they get to the point of being underfunded on a cashflow basis, the solution is either money printing (enabling continued cost of living increases and dollar depreciation) or just benefit reduction.

Remember, medicare needs in the future will be greater than today. That means health care spending will be a much larger part of GDP. Those dollars will cycle through to participants within the health care system. Where will all of these doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, etc flush with cash invest their profits? US Treasuries.

The whole thing is one big accounting game, and in real terms we are just talking about a reallocation of resources going forward. There will be no epic natural disaster because of this.

I'm kind of disappointed with you ZeroHedge - I expect more sophisticated thought processes from you.

Tyler Durden said...

Which was exactly the reason for my question of how much of that can be inflated.

Tyler Durden said...

Also, don't read too much into "epic disasters" - the whole point of the blog is to provide the facts: how many people know what the unfunded SS obligations is? how many of these people make cash based decisions on a daily basis? I am sorry to disappoint you.

Anonymous said...

This strikes me as a reckless post (Tyler, I love your blog, but the last few posts have been lacking in the "compelling argument" department). There is a LOT of redundancy in these numbers-- and that's part of the problem, that we don't know how many times the "source" debt (e.g. residental whole loans) has been further levered as it moved up the food chain. The bailout number might be legitimate, but it is not yet true debt (and counting it as true debt means other debt categories get decreased!) And derivatives notional? Do you really believe it's all "essentially vol bets" used in speculative activities? Maybe you should read up on the currency and interest rate swap markets and what they actually do.

I agree with the point that the debt is enormous and that we can't solve our problems with more debt. But throwing around words like "quadrillion" doesn't add to your credibility.

Tyler Durden said...

You would be surprised how familiar i am with currency and interest rate swaps. And am currently putting thoughts together on the $1.2 quadrillion problem. Of course gross notional is not net notional, and I assume you know that, but as AIG has demonstrated the shift from gross to net takes just one fat tail event. As for the amount disclosure, please bring your complaints to the Bank of International Settlements.

Rdan said...

Tyler,
You would be surprised how much we know about Social Security, using the Trustees Report to begin.

Much of what you say is cause for concern. But I think you are way off when it comes to SS in economic terms, although in political terms Peterson beats a steady drum.

Try http://angrybear.blogspot.com for a thorough treatment of the question via Bruce Webb and coberly.

Best,

Dan

Tyler Durden said...

I think it is great that the disclosure exists and people such as yourself follow the topic and bring attention to it. In the spirit of engendering a constructive discussion, please highlight on what economic aspect i am off. I also hope you, and everyone else that takes offense on what i am "way off" on, read the disclaimers about alternative interpretations. nowhere have i said the number is definitive and it is more than obvious that a lot of accounting wizardry is involved here as well. note the question mark after the numbers.

fluffhedd said...

Why on earth would the US government be unable to meet social security obligations? This line of thinking is completely nonsense... I mean, come on, will social security checks start bouncing?

BobbyG said...

"Why on earth would the US government be unable to meet social security obligations?"
____

Take the cap off the payroll tax. On to other issues.

Anonymous said...

Tyler, I think the mortgage debt outstanding appears to be in error. Plus I think you need to consolidate the different types of debt. Say, does household debt already include the mortgage debt? Have a look at consumer credit, for example.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute!

There's something seriously wrong with these numbers. There's big-time double-counting.

For example, are there really $10.5T in mortgages, ON TOP OF $17T in Corporate/Financial debt AND $13.8T in Household debt? I cannot imagine that this is accurate. Aside from their mortgages, households simply don't have that level of debt.

On the other hand, I might have missed it, but where are the state and municipal debts and obligations here?

Other than these, great site.

Henry

Tyler Durden said...

It is quite possible that mortgage debt could be double counted in some instances with consumer debt although failed agancy debt (fre and fnm) is standalone. Any attempts at further refining are welcome.This post is meant as a starting point to put the assorted tranches of us liabilities in relative perspective and has no conclusions only open ended questions. I am amused by how many take personal offense to it. Links to other blogs are more than welcome as this is an open forum topic.

Eric said...

Anon@3:06 - are you sure that they got rid of the 10 years of tax after you renounce your citizenship? I know that they added an extra tax (capital gains paid as if you sold everything when you leave), but I could not find where they got rid of the 10 years of taxes.

Anonymous said...

To Scriabinop:

You say "[t]he whole thing is one big accounting game, and in real terms we are just talking about a reallocation of resources going forward. There will be no epic natural disaster because of this."

I think you are over-engineering this.

The federal government cannot spend more than it (1) taxes, (2) prints, or (3) borrows. There are limits to each of these three, and they are interconnected.

(1) As has been well-established, there is a point of diminishing returns with taxes. Above that point, while tax rates go up, taxes go down. Laffer curve.

(2) Creating money in excess of GDP growth has its own problems. (A) To take the matter to the extreme--what if all revenue was raised by printing money? Then every dollar printed would reduce the useful value of those in existence proportionately. If you over-create money for the purpose of funding federal mandates, the costs of those mandates will rise proportionately--and you won't achieve the purpose of the mandate. (B) Overly high inflation is itself destructive. And....last but not least...(C) if you freely create money through QE you reduce propensity to buy Treasuries.

(3) If there is a lack of confidence in tax revenues or dollar value stability, then you will either not sell your Treasuries or will have to pay high yields. High yields would not help an economy already in trouble. And the day that entities stop buying Treasuries....

So, there are limits to money creation, borrowing, or taxing. Those limits aren't as apparent when GDP is rising proportionately. But when a depression hits, and you already have high taxes, and you've already borrowed heavily, and have even begun to transfer private debts to the nation....and where you can't create more money without impairing further borrowing...where exactly do you find a solution?

Anonymous said...

there is only one dollar but it is in trillions of places at once.

Anonymous said...

Gap down open, you spooked the market again. I better get back into that copper trade, LoL...

B said...

If you count SS and Medicare/Medicaid as unfunded liabilities (which is wrong) then you must also count Defense spending etc. as unfunded liabilities too.

So add another 50 Trillion for unfunded defense liabilities...

It soon becomes absurd to think of it this way.

Anonymous said...

so what is your optimistic way of looking at it?

Anonymous said...

Captain Phillips is free now. Pirates are killed by immensely powerful US military. The same will happen to all hedgie pirates, who hijacked US economy and are now asking for ransom. Don't worry.

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters, but Municipal Debt is something like $3 trillion...

Frank the Frog said...

In the spirit of the discussion:

1- What are the estimated liabilities (valued over what time horizon)?
2- What are the annual cash-flows necessary to cover the liabilities (this year, next year, etc.)?

Are those who take offense debating the valuations of the liabilities?

How can we move from discussing the valuations of liabilities to discussing the annual cash-flows required to meet the obligations?

Anonymous said...

fluffhedd - My sentiments exactly.

'The funds to pay taxes and buy Government securities comes from Government spending'

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 7:11:

Are you trying to suggest that our Treasuries could solely be purchased by the Fed, and such a system would work? Please....oblige us with the math on how such a system would work.

To anonymous at 7:08: We can't start discussing annual cash flows to pay back the debt because we haven't stopped borrowing yet!

Anonymous said...

Anon@3:06 - are you sure that they got rid of the 10 years of tax after you renounce your citizenship? I know that they added an extra tax (capital gains paid as if you sold everything when you leave), but I could not find where they got rid of the 10 years of taxes.

-------

Sneaky Bush and Pelosi added a sentence to the end of the 10 year expatriation tax rule, turning off the rule for expatriations after June 2008. The trade off was that they added the rule you mentioned that Slick Willy proposed, generally imposing a mark to market tax on net gain in assets when you expatriate (subject to certain exceptions like folks who have net gain less than $600000). But most people are sitting on net losses right now, so that might not hurt too bad.

Seek your own advice though, I might be a slacker working a taco stand.

goose said...

TD, in the Statistical Appendix to the IMF Global Financial Stability Report there is a table (3) entitled "Selected Indicator on the Size of the Capital Markets, 2007." Combining the "Total Debt Securities" column and the "Bank Assets" column yields a kind of total debt outstanding by country (or area, ie Euro Zone) which has less double counting though there is still some because banks own some debt securities ($1.3 Trillion MBS, eg). Total debt outstanding for the US by this count was $41.0 Trillion, or about 297% of GDP, at the end of 2007.

Anonymous said...

GoldenBalls is buying $5B in PE stakes. Depending on the vintages they are buying, GS might be acting stoopid. Stakes in many PE equity funds are worthless. Now if FT's story is somewhat off, and GoldenBalls is buying stakes in PE funds holding senior debt in PE targets, so they can wipe out the equity and bondholders in PE targets, that would make more sense, provided they are getting a nice discount.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/ac20b23c-278d-11de-9b77-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Fac20b23c-278d-11de-9b77-00144feabdc0.html%3Fnclick_check%3D1&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bloomberg.com%2Findex.html%3FIntro%3Dintro3&nclick_check=1

Anonymous said...

http://www.boomerdeathcounter.com/

The answer to SS and Medicare are pretty simple, raise the eligibility age to 70. This is going to happen sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

it is a matter of 10 years at most before we hit the SS wall...

We've already hit the SS wall.

So far Congress has been spending all the "extra" cash from SS taxes (and leaving IOUs in the trust fund).

Now (like this year) the SS tax receipts (not interest on the IOUs) are dropping.

So is Congress going to cut their spending? Right...

Anonymous said...

The American Acadamy of Actuaries has an online game that lets you fix social security, through one or more of raising retirement age, cutting COLA, raising taxes, etc.

http://www.actuary.org/socialsecurity/game.html

Medicare is tougher because people have this idea they can have free unlimited health care. Which is impossible.

Daniel said...

SS is an easy fix, just up the cap on the payroll tax.

Medicare needs tremendous cuts. It also needs improved health of American's. Trying to cut spending without trying to improve health will just fail.

Anonymous said...

SS is easily solvable. All you need to do is means test. At least 25% of the elderly do not require SS money. Most of the people I know don't. Instead of raising taxes, use means testing. Of course, we (USA) will be bankrupt long before this is considered. It's amazing how many simple solutions we ignore. Another one is legalizing drugs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Danial to up the Cap. There shouldn't be a cap, all income should apply so that it is fair on a percentage basis. Even Warren Buffet said this is unfair. As for Medicare, until we make healthcare non-profit it will be a mess. Insurance companies have an inherent conflict of interest choosing how they pay claims. Can't anyone see this!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Danial to up the Cap. There shouldn't be a cap, all income should apply so that it is fair on a percentage basis. Even Warren Buffet said this is unfair.

========

Only if investment income are subject to social security and medicare tax. It is unfair to give them special treatment.

Anonymous said...

Removing the cap on SS is yet another "new" tax. It, too, counts toward the tipping point. So if you sock it yet again to the high wage earners, you won't be able to raise their taxes for, say, bailing out yet another financial institution.

For some reason, everyone seems to think that we can tax, borrow, and spend without long-term ramifications.

Oh--and removing the SS cap on high wage earners is "fair"? By what measure of fairness? If they pay more, shouldn't they be able to collect proportionately more for this forced savings program to be "fair."

Anonymous said...

An important aspect to keep in mind that the NET of all derivates is zero, regardless of the notional amount. If I enter into an interest rate swap with Mr. B every dollar I earn is a dollar he loses and vice versa. Net-net there are no gains or losses (aside from transaction and processing fees).
the reason why CDS turned into such a mess is because there is no standardized way of pricing or setteling the markt to market on a regular basis. Even with non-financial market players interest rate swaps are settled on a quarterly basis. If a counterparty fails to pay at that point you terminate the swap and eat one quarter of intereste differential between fixed and floating. No notional ever changes hands....

Anonymous said...

Oh--and removing the SS cap on high wage earners is "fair"? By what measure of fairness? If they pay more, shouldn't they be able to collect proportionately more for this forced savings program to be "fair."

>>>>>

That's nothing. Bill and Hill Clinton proposed confiscating 401k's and IRA's, and swapping the assets for treasuries. Congress had hearings recently where Econ Prof Teresa Ghilarducci was once again proposing 401k and IRA confiscation. So Congress can spend the money as it sees fit. This wouldn't be the first time the demo's seized assets FDR seized gold in the 30's. And more recently, Argentina seized pension assets. Crazy times.

Anonymous said...

Credit market debt is 3.5X GDP. Last time it approached this height was before the Great Depression.

Why should it be different this time? We will be in a major war or depression or both within ~10 years.

Arguing about what should be done seems pretty fruitless, when our government is so clearly broken.

Anonymous said...

I'm really interested in the responses so far. SS is definitely a fixable problem. The surplus which does exist, is there for a reason. It's completely unfair to say that we don't or can't pay that money back, when we pay back investors who buy T-bills. Imagine the uproar if we default on SS by cutting benefits, but not the Chinese. The people who engineered the program knew that the situation we have now could happen in the future, thats why we collected more than was needed at the time. Small adjustments in payroll taxes can easily fix the future shortfalls.

For those who say it is unfair to tax some more than others for SS, think of a standard health insurance policy. You don't get a refund if you pay more in premiums than the insurance co spends on you. As well the insurance co is out of luck if you get some expensive to treat disease.

Medicare is a serious problem, no argument there. Still an easy fix if you reform healthcare. The majority of healthcare in this country is glorified witchcraft. No science backs the treatments that doctors charge thousands for all the time. We simply have to cut off the money for needless back, knee surgeries, etc.

Bryan said...

What is it with all the liberals on this board?

If you think increasing SS taxes is sound economic policy you don't have a clue.

Why is there no discussion about reducing benefits? There has been more and more capital flight from this country for good reason.

From excessive regulation to high labor costs to high taxation nobody wants to build in America.

Daniel said...

The government should tax all income as income, and not try to push economic policy in how they tax. If investing is really the best overall, and that's why we have a 15% cap gains tax, it would still be the best overall if all investing/income generating opportunities were taxed the same. Unless someone can name a government subsidy that has actually worked, and not just screwed something else up. In which case, I'd love to hear what subsidy this was.

Anonymous said...

Bryan,

I switched to being a liberal in the 90's when the republican's started getting wacko. If they are ever able to get back to their roots then I might switch back, until then liberalism is more cogent...

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 8:33:

You say that we can pay SS by defaulting on the Treasuries. And once we default on those Treasuries, how many more Treasuries will we sell? Zero.

And if we can't sell Treasuries, how big will our budget be?

I cannot believe how people just keep looking at one small piece of this and keep saying that it is solvable. The point of this overall thread is that we are overburdened with debt, and if we keep it up we will have sovereign default.

Anonymous said...

"If you count SS and Medicare/Medicaid as unfunded liabilities (which is wrong) then you must also count Defense spending etc. as unfunded liabilities too."

SS/Medicare are promises. Defense spending is not (except for things like veterans benefits).

Anonymous said...

Raise retirement age to 80 and SS problem is solved.

Anonymous said...

No commentary necessary Tyler. The reason behind all this debt is clear:

to make us all debt slaves, as home-owners and/or taxpayers.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 8:33:

You say that we can pay SS by defaulting on the Treasuries. And once we default on those Treasuries, how many more Treasuries will we sell? Zero.

--------

First, there is no need to default. Benefits can be cut to avoid that. The supreme court held that people have no constitutional right to social security or medicare benefits. Congress can cut them, and then the federal filing cabinet holding unissued treasuries, can give them to the Treasury Department for cancelation.

Second, there is no default in no paying an unissued treasury bond. If I write an IOU to myself, I haven't done anything. It is like kissing your sister.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine the uproar if we default on SS by cutting benefits, but not the Chinese."

You are mixing up two different things. Sure, the "trust fund" will pay off, for whatever that's worth. But it doesn't mean that benefits can't be changed (up or down)...as has happened many times already.

Aaron Krowne said...

SS goes cash-flow negative very soon. The SS admin just announced like last week that they are projecting almost no surplus by next year. Which, given the way deficits are increasing day, suggests to me that SS will be out of money before the year is through.

And yes, I literally mean "out of money" -- the trust fund is an accounting fantasy, so the Federal government will have to begin issuing more Treasuries to pay for Social Security outlays.

Which, of course, means the Fed will have to print the money to pay for those Treasuries, since the marginal issuance is now being bought up by the Fed.

Hyperinflation, here we come.

Anonymous said...

The reason why people are getting upset with these numbers, is that someone like you, who obviously is quite intelligent, is purposefully manipulating numbers to prove a point. It's obvious to me, a regular joe, that those numbers you provided for debt double-count massively most of the debt.

So, when your other readers who are much more intelligent than me read it, they get upset because it feels like you are trying to purposefully manipulate us into thinking what you want us to think, instead of just presenting facts like many of your other posts.

In fact, your explanation doesn't even make sense. What do you mean they are subject to interpretation? If you want to count credit-card debt and household debt twice, there's not really too much room for interpretation, it's just plain wrong, and your intelligent readers are going to call you out on it.

Sion said...

1st RULE: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.

2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB.

3rd RULE: If someone says "stop" or goes limp, taps out the fight is over.

4th RULE: Only two guys to a fight.

5th RULE: One fight at a time.

6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes.

7th RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to.

8th RULE: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.

Rdan said...

Oh good grief...without numbers any talk on Social Security is fantasy. The Trust Frund is not necessary to keep SS going...that is a side show.

It would still remain mostly pay-go and involve a very small raise in the tax...it is an "insurance" for old age paid for by workers for workers...leave it alone. Numbers can be had at Angry Bear.

Pat Shuff said...

Sovereign treasure the entire developed world over is being shoveled into a hole in the ground.
More today than yesterday and less than tomorrow. Sovereign treasure which does not exist, there is only debt behind vault doors.
Allocating a half and growing unsustainable share of revenues to the last few years of life is a question of ethical dimensions beyond human capacity.

If one notices this form of government does not work, anywhere that it is instituted, in any known realm of mathematics including imaginary numbers. It is very efficient at producing old people and their unfunded obligations.

everson said...

2 Points:

1) The cap on SS taxes exists to lower the volatility in receipts. Imagine the difference in receipts between the top 1%'s income in 2008 and in 2009. Highly variable receipts are undesirable for SS so the creators put in the 'cap' to make the receipts more steady.

2) The retirement age of 65 was chosen in a day and age when life expectancy for males was 63. Now you have life expectancy up over 75 for males. Many people in their 60's are nowadays able to work productively. (Think Paul Volcker at 81 or so.) Attaching the benefits age to life expectancy as opposed to a fixed age seems like a pretty easy fix.

If they cure cancer and slow aging do we really want 120 year old's to be fully retired for 60+ years?

Aaron Krowne said...

Yes, obviously the path of least resistance to close the SS gap is to means-test and raise the benefits age. Of course, that is a violation of an implicit promise that a lot of boomers are not going to like very much -- especially with their private pensions and 401k's falling apart.

No matter which way you spin it, this country's economic shortfall is going to have to be faced starting now, getting more severe in an accelerating fashion over the coming years, if not months.

friday said...

Keep it up Tyler. Great stuff not found anywhere else. Anyone who says anything to the contrary either doesn't get it, or is part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Tyler, please. Grow up.

If 2 American citizens, Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy decide to enter a financial transaction, and Mr L borrows $1,000,000 from Mr H, does that change the net debt of the USA? Nope.

Mr L pays $1,000 to Mr H as a Social Security payment. Any impact of the US net debt? Nope.

Mr L founds a bank and lends a $1m mortgage to Mr H. Any impact one the US net debt? None.

Mr L and H decide to invent, guess what, a go-vern-ment! It immediately borrows $1m from them and spends it to create the IRS to tax them to death. Any impact on net US debt? None.

Tyler, you want to work a bit on this concept that eludes you: zero-sum games.

Now Mr L and H, pissed by the creation of the IRS, don't want to give money to the US government, so the latter turn to Mr Chan in China to borrow the $1m. Only NOW you have debt that matters to the solvency of the USA as a nation.

What's the US net external debt?

$7tn at the end of 2008. One year of US household aggregate income. No Armageddon in sight.

So, Tyler, your scaremongering is misplaced, not to say puerile. I praise your ambition for unfettered, independent and critical thinking: it's eminently laudable, but you owe to yourself to do better.

Anonymous said...

Here's a taste of economic reality for you: http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1611-FedSpeak-Translation-There-Is-No-Recovery.html

Pure reinflation. There are no fundementals. There is no recovery.

Huddersfield Mark said...

Nice article.

daniel said...

This is fascinating.
I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

money and profit

venus said...

As we know China is the most diverse market for a new entrance to understand, if a MNE wants to promote its product, which are the various promotional tools and which one is best as per the culture and economical factor if we consider the mostmoney and profit

John P. Slevin said...

Anonymous said:
"...No Armageddon in sight..."

Anytime anyone borrows from banks in the U.S. the banks only are required actually to have 10% of the amount lent. This "system" is called "fractional reserve" and I suggest you learn about it and adjust your economic theories accordingly.

I thank the author for a very good piece.

The "aggregate" risk to the taxpayer not only is quite real, it is extreme.

The article you ridicule actually is quite a succinct and accurate analysis.

That there are some so blind as to not see is not the author's fault.