Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: National Debt

Trump’s Budget Won’t be Balanced, Just Restrained

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 13, 2018:

In his message to Congress describing “An American Budget,” the president started off accurately enough: “The current fiscal path is unsustainable, and future generations deserve better.” Translation: If this budget isn’t approved, wage earners will not only have to hide their wallets but their grandchildren as well.

He added: “Over the next decade, a steady rate of 3-percent economic growth will infuse trillions of additional dollars into our economy, fueling the dreams of the American people and sustaining a new era of American Greatness.” And, hopefully, enough vastly increased tax receipts to pay for it.

He left his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mick Mulvaney to fill in the gaps and pick up the pieces. The budget, apparently, won’t ever be balanced, so we’re changing the goal: grow the economy faster than the budget so that the deficit gap starts to shrink. Said Mulvaney, “As a nation, we face difficult times — challenged by a crumbling infrastructure, growing deficits, rogue nations, and irresponsible Washington spending….  Just like every American family, the budget makes hard choices: fund what we must, cut where we can, and reduce what we borrow.”

Here are the numbers:

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Public-Private Partnerships the Key to Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 13, 2018:

On the surface, the White House’s plan to rebuild America’s failing infrastructure looks like magic: The job is going to cost $1.5 trillion, but the federal government will only have to “invest” $20 billion each year for the next 10 years to get the job done. The rest will come from states and local municipalities in response to various “incentives” through the grant process. Additionally, the White House’s proposed plan will cut the permitting process down from the usual 10 to 13 years to just 24 months — 21 months to consider the project and three months to approve it. It also relies heavily on the concept of “public-private partnerships” to fund the program.

The president promoted the idea that “it is time to give Americans the working, modern infrastructure they deserve.” Of course, the government has nothing to give which it has not already previously extracted from its citizens. But no matter. Trump added:

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Markets Move Higher Following Crash Instigated by Obscure Agency

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, February 7, 2018: 

English: Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc....

With Wall Street regaining its footing following the decline that started last Thursday, commentators in the mainstream media are still searching for the decline’s cause. Initially they claimed that it was an unexpected surge in inflation evidenced by the rise in the yield of 10-year U.S. Treasury notes approaching three percent (in early September it was closer to two percent). This was followed by the jobs report that announced that wages increased 2.9 percent year-over-year, up from just over two percent previously.

Writers at the Wall Street Journal dug deeper: The selloff was caused by — ready? — “volatility sellers, risk-party funds and algorithmic trading.” They then went into mind-numbing detail about how these strategies work and how the crash cost people using in them in excess of $200 billion.

Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, told TheStreet.com that maybe it was the Federal Reserve’s unhappiness with The Donald:

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Sorry, Inflation Worries are Not Behind the Selloff in Stocks

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, February 7, 2018:  

All manner of explanations for the recent market selloff in stocks have come out of the woodwork: the market has gotten ahead of itself; it was due for a correction anyway; it’s been 400 days since a three percent correction; and so on. The least informed is that all of a sudden there is inflation! See? The yield on the 10-year Treasury is up 80 basis points since September! That must mean there’s inflation! Couple that with the “surge” in wages just reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2.9 percent year-over-year compared to 2.2 percent reported previously) and – voila! – inflation is back. Time to take profits!

Most commentators didn’t bother to check with the Fed, specifically the Cleveland Fed and the St. Louis Fed, which report the real numbers on inflation and money supply. First:

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Treasury Advisory Committee Says U.S. Must Borrow Trillions, Sending Stocks Down

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 5, 2018:

When an obscure advisory committee announced last Wednesday that the U.S. Treasury would have to borrow billions to fund Trump’s tax reform program, the stock market pitched headlong into a selloff, dropping Thursday, Friday, and early into Monday. Before the selloff, the Dow was approaching 26,300, but by the close on Friday it had lost 760 points. The rout continued into Monday, with the Dow down more than 1,200 points from Wednesday’s high. [Note the rout continued into Tuesday but found some footing by the end of the day.]

Much handwringing by commentators blamed the selloff on various technical factors:

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Apple’s Repatriation of Its Profits: Talk About Stimulating the Economy!

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, January 19, 2018: 

After paying the world’s largest tax bill – $38 billion – Apple, Inc., the world’s largest company by market capitalization and now the government’s largest taxpayer, will have $214 billion left over.

It is making plans for that $214 billion. In its announcement on Wednesday, the company said it would be making “a new set of investments to build on its commitment to support the American economy and its workforce, concentrated in three areas where Apple has had the greatest impact on job creation: direct employment by Apple, spending and investment with Apple’s domestic suppliers and manufacturers, and fueling the fast-growing app economy that Apple created with iPhone® and the App Store®.”

It added:

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Apple to Repatriate Its Foreign Profits and Put Them to Work in America

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, January 18, 2018:  

Apple announced Wednesday that not only would it repatriate nearly all its foreign cash holdings under the new tax reform law, but it was going to put a lot of it to work right away. This puts the lie to anti-capitalists who predicted that such a plan would only further enrich the already rich.

Instead Apple is going to spread the repatriated funds around, announcing that it would not only be creating new jobs but would be building new facilities and expanding its financial commitment to the company’s “innovation” fund. It also is expanding its efforts to reach students in high school to teach them coding language (for free) so that many of them will be able to provide Apple with the coders and software developers it will need as it expands into the future.

In the process it will also pay the largest single tax bill in history:

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November’s Federal Deficit 11 Percent Ahead of Last Year’s

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, December 13, 2017:

Buried in the latest report from the Department of the Treasury is this nugget: Through the first two months of the fiscal year, which began on October 1, the deficit (the difference between revenues and spending) was 11 percent higher than the same two months last year. And this despite revenues (taxes from individuals and corporations) setting records. The $433 billion the government collected in October and November was $13 billion more than it collected in the same period last year, and $11.3 billion more than it collected the year before.

In those two months,

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The U.S. Economy is Built on Papier-mâché and Politicians’ Promises

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, November 1, 2017:

What a perfect definition of the American economy! Papier-mâché is defined as a “composite material consisting of paper pieces of pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.” Add in a dose of political promises that everyone knows cannot be kept – not even close – and we have the American economy.

From a distance it looks pretty good. More than pretty good: to the untrained eye the American economy is setting world records, to wit:

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U.S. Economy Continues to Surprise to the Upside

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 31, 2017: 

One measure of how the U.S. economy continues to exceed expectations is the Economic Surprise Index published by Citigroup. It’s a tool that is used to measure how the economy compares to those expectations and, at the moment at least, it reflects the ebullience reported elsewhere. Any reading above zero indicates that the economy’s performance is exceeding projections. On Tuesday it hit 40 — its highest level since April.

That performance has repeatedly been reported in The New American and elsewhere, with these notable results:

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Treasury Department: $666 Billion Deficit; Sixth-highest in History

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 23, 2017:  

The federal government ran a deficit of $666 billion in 2017, reported the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday, thanks mainly to increases in budget items that supposedly can’t be cut: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the national debt. In addition, military spending is due for substantial increases under the Trump administration.

Translation:

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Herb Stein, Meet Mick Mulvaney

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 23, 2017: 

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney

University of Virginia professor Herbert Stein, the father of Ben Stein of Ferris Bueller fame, was known as a pragmatic conservative. But he is best known for his cryptic expression, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Mick Mulvaney’s hopeful outlook hasn’t yet been tarnished by his experience in Washington. Serving as a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina prior to accepting the position of President Trump’s Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney really thinks, based on his public statements, that things really can go on forever. All that is needed is a little tweaking: “We need to grow our economy again and get our fiscal house in order. We can do that through smart spending restraint, tax reform, and cutting red tape.”

A closer look at the size of that fiscal deficit, however, reveals Mr. Mulvaney’s naiveté: on Thursday the Treasury Department announced that the deficit for the fiscal year that ended on September 30 was

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As the Fed Shrinks Its Balance Sheet, Nothing Can Go Wrong

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, September 20, 2017:

Investors and Wall Street gurus, seers, and prognosticators paid attention on Wednesday to the emanations from the Federal Reserve board meeting, hoping to glean more of the details about the “great unwinding” of the Fed’s enormously bloated balance sheet. In June, Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the time was drawing near to begin reducing the Fed’s balance sheet and there were at least two ways to start: letting maturing bonds “roll off” instead of reinvesting the proceeds in new issues, and liquidating, ever so slowly, some U.S. treasuries, starting at $10 billion a month in October. That liquidation would increase on a quarterly basis until it topped out at $50 billion a month.

The goal, it was suggested, was to

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Debt Ceiling Debate Charade Begins, Again

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, August 2, 2017:

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned Congress in a letter sent Friday that they had precious little time to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling before his department ran out of money. He even put a date on when that would happen if the ceiling wasn’t raised: “Based upon our available information, I believe that it is critical that Congress act to increase the nation’s borrowing authority by September 29.”

That’s the day before the end of the government’s fiscal year, and closely coincides with the moment when the Treasury will be unable to pay the government’s bills. The Treasury’s cash balances are expected to drop close to $25 billion in September, dangerously low when compared to the government’s budget of $4 trillion.

Mnuchin no doubt is referring to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released in June that reminded citizens that

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Democrats and Fiscal Reality Present Roadblocks for Trump’s Budget

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, August 1, 2017:

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Deciding to move on following the failure of the Senate to pass the “skinny” ObamaCare repeal bill, the Trump administration announced on Monday its accelerated plans for passing its budget bill. According to Marc Short, President Trump’s director of legislative affairs, background work on the budget will take place in August in preparation for committee action in the House in September. Assuming little resistance there, Short hopes for a floor vote in October, a Senate vote in November, and the president’s signature on it immediately thereafter.

It’s good to dream big.

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Trump’s Growth Target Reduced to 3 Percent

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 17, 2017:  

For Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s director of his Office of Management and Budget (OMB), reality is setting in. On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly promised four percent growth in the GDP (gross domestic product): “We’re bringing it from 1 percent up to 4 percent. And I actually think we can go higher than 4 percent. I think you can go to 5 percent or 6 percent.” (October, 2016). Later that month he doubled down during a speech to an audience in North Carolina: “I’m going to get us to 4 percent growth and create 25 million jobs over a 10-year period.”

Mulvaney’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday was unapologetic: “We are promoting MAGAnomics — and that means sustained 3 percent growth.” This new tag, which incorporates the acronym for “Make America Great Again,” is a play on “Reaganomics” from the 1980s:

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Will Mulvaney Have Any More Success with MAGAnomics than Stockman did with Reaganomics?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 17, 2017:

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney.

After serving in the House as a Republican representative from Michigan, David Stockman served as President Ronald Reagan’s OMB director from January 1981 until he quit 4½ years later in frustration. He got half of Reaganomics passed – the tax reduction part. He failed in getting the other half passed – the government spending cut part.

Mick Mulvaney is now Trump’s OMB Director after serving in the House as a Republican from South Carolina. And his job is likely to be as difficult and frustrating as was Stockman’s.

It’s far too soon to speculate about Mulvaney.

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CBO Raises Its Deficit, Debt Forecasts in Latest Revision

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 5, 2017:  

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just revised its January report with new data on spending, revenues, and economic growth. The revision isn’t good:

The projected rise in [annual] deficits would be the result of rapid growth in spending for federal retirement and health care programs targeted to older people, and to rising interest payments on the government’s debt, accompanied by only moderate growth in revenue collections.

In other words, the CBO simply doesn’t believe that President Trump’s plans to reduce regulation, cut taxes, and repeal ObamaCare will amount to much. Instead the government programs on autopilot — Social Security, Medicare, and especially debt service on the country’s $20 trillion national debt — will eat up nearly 80 percent of the government’s total budget in less than 10 years. Said the CBO:

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Gov’t Collects Record $240 Billion in May; Still Runs $88 Billion Deficit

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, June 16, 2017:

English: Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explan...

Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explanation: Eventually, Medicare and Medicaid spending absorbs all federal tax revenue.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday that the federal government collected more money in May than in any other month in history: $240.4 billion. In the same breath, it said that the government spent $328.8 billion, creating a deficit of $88.4 billion.

From a wage earner’s perspective, it meant that in May the average worker paid $1,572 in taxes but the government spent $2,149, making up the $577 difference by borrowing. Such deficit spending is making the S&P Global credit rating agency increasingly nervous.

Just a week earlier, the agency affirmed its best rating — A-1+ — for the government’s “short term” debt, which means, in its own parlance, that the federal government’s ability to pay its current bills is “strong.” But in the longer term, the agency is far less sanguine. While holding its current long-term rating at AA+ (one full notch below its best rating), it said it’s unable to give the United States its highest rating (AAA) because of “high general government debt, relatively short-term-oriented policymaking, and uncertainty about policy formulation” for the future. It explained what it meant about that “uncertainty”:

Some of the [Trump] Administration’s policy proposals appear at odds with policies of the traditional Republican leadership and historical base. That, coupled with lack of cohesion, not just across, but within parties, complicates the ability to effectively and proactively advance legislation in Congress, particularly on fiscal policy. Taken together, we don’t expect a meaningful expansion or reduction of the fiscal deficit over the forecast period.

And what does it say about what’s likely to happen over that “forecast period”?

The U.S.’s net general government debt burden (as a share of GDP) remains twice its 2007 level. While, in our view, debt to GDP should hold fairly steady over the next several years, we expect it to rise thereafter absent measures to raise additional revenue and/or cut nondiscretionary expenditures.

What does that phrase “next several years” mean? How much time before the government’s national debt explodes upward? Says S&P:

Although deficits have declined, net general government debt to GDP remains high at about 80% of GDP. Given our growth forecasts and our expectations that credit conditions will remain subdued, thus keeping real interest rates in check, we expect this ratio to hold fairly steady through 2020. At that point, it could deteriorate more sharply, partly as a result of demographic trends.

Translation: Deficit spending will remain “subdued” for three and a half years, and then Katy bar the door!

Here is where S&P bows out of the picture, giving way instead to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which completed the picture in its March report:

Federal debt held by the public, defined as the amount that the federal government borrows from financial markets, has ballooned over the last decade. In 2007, the year the recession began, debt held by the public represented 35 percent of GDP. Just five years later, federal debt held by the public has doubled to 70 percent and is projected to continue rising.

“Continue rising”? By how much? And by when? The CBO is blunt:

Debt has not seen a surge this large since the increase in federal spending during World War II, when debt exceeded 70 percent of GDP. The budget office projects that growing budget deficits will cause the debt to increase sharply over the next three decades, hitting 150 percent of GDP by 2047.

So, that ratio of government debt compared to the country’s economic ability to produce goods and services was 35 percent in 2007, is now 70 percent, and will soon be 150 percent.

And what’s the reason?

The majority of the rise in spending is largely the result of programs like Social Security and Medicare in addition to rising interest rates. For example, Social Security and major health care program spending represented 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, an increase from the average of 37 percent it has been over the past 50 years.

It appears to be an unstoppable locomotive. Non-discretionary spending (spending already locked into place by past Congresses and fully expected to be received by its beneficiaries) is on autopilot. And interest rates now coming off historic lows are only going to increase those annual deficits into the future as far as the eye can see.

The CBO is about as close as one can get to a truly non-partisan federal agency — one that has no partisan political agenda and is considered by many as the most reliable forecaster of future economic events. So it’s not only willing to cover, analyze, and present its findings candidly, it’s also willing to tell the truth. It asked, rhetorically, “What might the consequences be if current laws remain unchanged?” It answered:

Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy. The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis, an occurrence in which investors become unwilling to finance a government’s borrowing unless they are compensated with very high interest rates.

Which brings one to the ultimate rhetorical question: What happens when even those “very high interest rates” aren’t enough to compensate those investors for the risks they are taking by loaning their money to a government that increasingly isn’t able to pay its bills and must continue to borrow increasingly massive amounts to cover its deficits? What happens next?

Moody’s Revelation: “Managed” Economies fail

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, May 26, 2017:  

Perhaps without knowing it, Moody’s downgrade of China one full notch on Wednesday exposed the fallacy of managed economies: that government bureaucrats with fancy degrees from the University of Chicago, Harvard, or Yale know what they’re doing. One of those fallacies that have been promoted for years came from Yale grad Arthur Laffer as far back as the Reagan administration. On the surface it sounds eminently logical: cut taxes and the economy will grow. The fallacy is knowing just how much to cut, whose to cut, when to cut, and how long to cut.

The Laffer Curve undergirds the whole idea of “supply side economics” –

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.