Category : The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

USA Today–the American Government's mountain of debt

The health insurance program for seniors is the nation’s biggest financial challenge.

The first of 77 million Baby Boomers turn 65 this year and qualify for Medicare. Enrollment will grow from 48 million in 2010 to 64 million in 2020 and 81 million in 2030, according to Medicare actuaries. That 33-million increase in the next 20 years compares with 13 million in the last 20.

This demographic burst ”” combined with the addition of a prescription drug benefit in 2006 and rising health care costs generally ”” has created an unfunded liability of nearly $25 trillion over the lifetime of those now in the program as workers and retirees. That is the taxpayers’ obligation, beyond what Medicare taxes will bring in or seniors will pay in premiums for Medicare Part B ”” also called supplemental coverage ”” that helps pay for doctor visits and other expenses outside the hospital.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ) Robert Mundell Believes there is a Deflation Risk for the Dollar

From 2001-07, he argues, the dollar underwent a long, steady decline against the euro, tacitly encouraged by U.S. monetary authorities. In response to the dollar’s decline, investors diverted capital into inflation hedges, notably real estate, leading to the subprime bubble. By mid-2007, the real-estate bubble had burst. In response, the Fed reduced short-term interest rates rapidly, which lowered the dollar further. The subprime crisis was severe, but with looser money, the economy appeared to stabilize in the second quarter of 2008.

Then, in summer 2008, the Fed committed what Mr. Mundell calls one of the worst mistakes in its history: In the middle of the subprime crunch””exacerbated by mark-to-market accounting rules that forced financial companies to cover short-term losses””the central bank paused in lowering the federal funds rate. In response, the dollar soared 30% against the euro in a matter of weeks. Dollar scarcity broke the economy’s back, causing a serious economic contraction and crippling financial crisis.

In March 2009, the Fed woke up and enacted QE1, lowering the dollar against the euro, and signs of recovery soon appeared. But in November 2009, QE1 ended and the dollar soared against the euro once again, pushing the U.S. economy back toward recession.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Robert Samuelson–Subsidizing the elderly is the biggest piece of federal spending

The problems of old age (chronic illness, outliving savings, loneliness) are real, but age by itself is not an indicator of need. The blanket defense of existing Social Security and Medicare isn’t “liberal” or “progressive.” It’s simply a political expedient with ruinous consequences. It enlarges budget deficits and forces an unfair share of adjustment ”” higher taxes, lower spending ”” on workers and other government programs. This is the morality of the ballot box.

People do not lose their obligations to the larger society by turning 65. We need to refocus these programs on their original purposes. Social Security was intended to prevent poverty, not finance recipients’ extra cable channels. Medicare provides peace of mind as well as health insurance; wealthier recipients can afford to pay more for their peace of mind. Burden-sharing needs to include the elderly. This is the crux of the budget problem.

Facing it is both a moral and financial imperative. With the 2012 election looming, major overhauls of these programs seem unlikely. Still, more modest changes (slow increases in eligibility ages, added taxation of Social Security benefits, costlier Medicare for upscale beneficiaries) could produce significant savings. If even these are absent, the meaning will be plain: Old stereotypes continue to trump new realities.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(NY Times Front Page) Debt Ceiling Has Some Give, Until Roof Falls In

The federal government will not run short of money to pay its bills on May 16, when the federal debt reaches the legal maximum of $14.3 trillion.

Even after Aug. 2, the deadline the Treasury Department set this week for Congress to lift the borrowing limit, the government might be able to delay a crisis, perhaps even for a few months, through extraordinary measures such as asset sales.

But with every passing week of stalemate over the debt ceiling, the risk increases that investors will start to fret that the United States will not pay its debts, and demand higher interest rates for loans to the federal government.

Should that happen, the cost could be vast and the damage difficult to reverse.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Budget, China, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

WSJ Front page–Officials Unfazed by Dollar Slide

The U.S. dollar fell Thursday to its lowest point since the summer of 2008, but officials aren’t showing signs that they are alarmed by the currency’s descent or acting to stem it.

In recent days, the nation’s top two economic policy makers””Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner””have publicly expressed their desire for a strong dollar. But there is little indication of a change in policy from either the Fed or Treasury””or in underlying economic conditions””that would alter the currency’s downward course.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Globalization, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(FT) US Banks Warn Obama on Soaring Debt

A group of the largest US banks and fund managers stepped up the pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to reach a deal to increase the country’s debt limit, saying that even a short default could be devastating for the financial markets and economy.

The warning over the debt limit is the strongest yet to come from Wall Street, highlighting growing nervousness among investors about the US political system’s ability to forge a consensus on fiscal policy.

The most pressing budgetary issue confronting Congress and the Obama administration is the need to raise the US debt ceiling, which stands at $14,300 billion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

A look at the US Dollar/Swiss Franc Chart over Five and Twelve Years

[Here is the Bloomberg Headline: Swiss Franc Reaches Highest In At Least 40 Years Versus Dollar]

This is painful and sad and (go under the chart to the time box and click “max” all the way to the right) for an even longer term perspective check this out.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Budget, Currency Markets, Economy, Europe, Politics in General, Switzerland, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ Front Page over the weekend) Dollar's Decline Speeds Up, With Risks for U.S.

The U.S. dollar’s downward slide is accelerating as low interest rates, inflation concerns and the massive federal budget deficit undermine the currency.

With no relief in sight for the dollar on any of those fronts, the downward pressure on the dollar is widely expected to continue.

The dollar fell nearly 1% against a broad basket of currencies this week, following a drop of similar size last week. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index closed at its lowest level since August 2008, before the financial crisis intensified.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, South America, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ Editorial) Fleeing the Dollar Flood–The world seeks protection from U.S. monetary policy

Members of the International Monetary Fund emerged from their huddle in Washington last weekend resolved to keep every option open to slow the flood of dollars pouring into their countries, including capital controls. That’s a dangerous game, given the need for investment to drive economic development. But it’s also increasingly typical of the world’s reaction to America’s mismanagement of the dollar and its eroding financial leadership.

The dollar is the world’s reserve currency, and as such the Federal Reserve is the closest thing we have to a global central bank. Yet for at least a decade, and especially since late 2008, the Fed has operated as if its only concern is the U.S. domestic economy.

The Fed’s relentlessly easy monetary policy combined with Congress’s reckless spending have driven investors out of the United States and into Asia, South America and elsewhere in search of higher returns and more sustainable growth. The IMF estimates that between the third quarter of 2009 and second quarter of 2010, Turkey saw a 6.9% inflow in capital as a percentage of GDP, South Africa 6.6%, Thailand 5%, and so on….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Notable and Quotable

“More than two years after the beginning of the recent crisis, U.S. policymakers have still not agreed on how to reverse recent fiscal deterioration or address longer-term fiscal pressures….”

–S&P credit analyst Nikola Swann in a statement today explaining why S and P shifted its outlook on America’s credit to “negative”

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(FT) Mohamed El-Erian: A warning for the US, and for the global economy

This is a timely reminder of the seriousness of America’s fiscal issues, for the country and for the rest of the world.

The continued failure to come up with a credible medium-term fiscal reform program would increase borrowing costs for all segments of US society, thereby undermining investment, employment and growth. It would also curtail foreigners’ appetite to add to their already substantial holdings of US assets. And it would weaken the dollar.

The US also risks eroding its standing at the core of the global monetary system.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(NY Times) S.&P. Lowers Outlook for U.S., Sending Stocks Down

Shares on Wall Street opened sharply lower and Treasury prices fell on Monday after the Standard & Poor’s rating firm lowered the outlook for the United States to negative, saying that there was a risk that lawmakers might not reach agreement on how to address the country’s fiscal issues.

“More than two years after the beginning of the recent crisis, U.S. policymakers have still not agreed on how to reverse recent fiscal deterioration or address longer-term fiscal pressures,” a credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s, Nikola G. Swann, said. At the same time, the firm affirmed the government’s AAA rating.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Politics in General, Stock Market, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

USA ratings outlook revised to negative from stable by S&P

S&P sees a “material risk that U.S. policymakers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium- and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013; if an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation is not begun by then, this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer ‘AAA’ sovereigns.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(Bloomberg) Texas University Endowment Storing About $1 Billion in Gold Bars

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., the second-largest U.S. academic endowment, took delivery of almost $1 billion in gold bullion as the metal reaches a record, according to the fund’s board.

The fund, whose $19.9 billion in assets ranked it behind Harvard University’s endowment as of August, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, last year added about $500 million in gold investments to an existing stake, said Bruce Zimmerman, the endowment’s chief executive officer. The holdings reached about $987 million yesterday, as Comex futures closed at $1,486 an ounce….

“Central banks are printing more money than they ever have, so what’s the value of money in terms of purchases of goods and services,” [Kyle] Bass said today in a telephone interview. “I look at gold as just another currency that they can’t print any more of.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Education, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Stock Market, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

President Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget this Afternoon (Full Text)

…here’s the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans’ benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20%. What’s left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That’s 12 percent for all of our other national priorities like education and clean energy; medical research and transportation; food safety and keeping our air and water clean.

Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cuts to that 12% alone won’t solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn’t require us to balance our budget overnight ”“ in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we will need a phased-in approach ”“ but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders in both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five and ten and twenty years down the road.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

David Leonhardt–Generational Divide Colors Debate Over Medicare’s Future

The Republican budget released on Tuesday is a daring one in many ways. Above all, it would replace the current Medicare with a system of private health insurance plans subsidized by the government. Whether you like or loathe that idea, it would undeniably reduce Medicare’s long-term funding gap ”” which is by far the biggest source of looming federal deficits.

Yet there is at least one big way in which the plan isn’t daring at all. It asks for a whole lot of sacrifice from everyone under the age of 55 and little from everyone 55 and over. Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the plan, calls the budget deficit an “existential threat” to the United States. Then he absolves more than one-third of all adults from responsibility in dealing with that threat.

This decision doesn’t make him unique in Washington. There is nearly a bipartisan consensus that any cuts to Medicare and Social Security should spare the baby boomers and the elderly. And, certainly, retirees or people on the verge of retirement shouldn’t have their benefits changed radically. But the consensus, like Mr. Ryan’s plan, goes too far.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Middle Age, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Young Adults

Bill Gross–Without big cuts in entitlements, a dreary Future for America

The above four multi-trillion-dollar liability balls are staggering in their implications. Remember first of all that the nearly $65 trillion of entitlement liabilities shown above are not some estimate of future spending. They are the discounted net present value of current spending should it continue at the projected demographic rate (importantly ­”“ it is much higher than the annual CPI + 1% used as a discounter because demand for healthcare rises much faster than inflation.) And while some Honorable Congressional Le Pews would counter that Medicaid is appropriated annually and therefore requires no discounted reserve, those words would surely count as “sweet nothings,” believable only to those whom they romance every several years at the polls. The incredible reality is that the $9.1 trillion federal debt that constitutes the next-to-tiniest ball in our chart is nothing compared to unfunded Medicaid and Medicare. It is like comparing Pluto to Saturn and Jupiter. The former (the $9.1 trillion current Treasury debt) does not even merit planetary status in our solar system of discounted future liabilities. It’s really just a large asteroid.

Look at it another way and our dire situation becomes equally revealing. Suppose that the $65 trillion of entitlement liabilities were fully funded in a “lockbox,” much like Social Security is falsely imagined to be. Just suppose. And say the cost of that funding (Treasury debt) was the same CPI + 1% that was used to produce the above discounted present value in the first place. Actually, that’s not a bad guesstimate for the average yield of all Treasury debt. If so, then the interest expense on the $75 trillion total debt would equal $2.6 trillion, quite close to the current level of entitlement spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What do we pay now in interest? About $250 billion. Our annual “lockbox” tab would rise by $2.35 trillion and our deficit would be close to 15% of GDP! The simple conclusion would be this: Unless you want to drastically reduce entitlement spending or heaven forbid raise taxes, then Pepé, you’ve got a stinker of a problem.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Barry Ritholtz– TARP + GSE: $257 Billion in the Red

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ) Barry Eichengreen: Why the Dollar's Reign Is Near an End

The greenback…is not just America’s currency. It’s the world’s.

But as astonishing as that is, what may be even more astonishing is this: The dollar’s reign is coming to an end.

I believe that over the next 10 years, we’re going to see a profound shift toward a world in which several currencies compete for dominance.

The impact of such a shift will be equally profound, with implications for, among other things, the stability of exchange rates, the stability of financial markets, the ease with which the U.S. will be able to finance budget and current-account deficits, and whether the Fed can follow a policy of benign neglect toward the dollar.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Budget, China, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(USA Today Editorial) The time to fix Social Security is sooner rather than later

President Obama’s budget director, Jacob Lew, said as much last week during his briefing on the president’s budget. Obama wants to find ways to “work together to find a solution to the long-term issues in Social Security,” Lew told reporters, but the program “does not contribute to the deficit in the short term.”

That would be nice if it were true. It’s not.

Social Security is a cash-in/cash-out program. It went into the red last year, when payroll tax revenue came up about $37 billion short of the benefits paid to retirees. Initially, that shortfall seemed a temporary consequence of the recession. But new projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that factors such as the payroll tax cut Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last year mean that Social Security will instead come up short every year from now on ”” at least $45 billion this year, and a staggering half a trillion dollars over the next decade.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ) Evan Newmark–Mean Street: Obama’s Budget Can’t Save America

I wonder if Mr. Obama is at all embarrassed by the 2012 budget. Like his previous two budgets, this one breaks all those “Morning in America” campaign promises of a “new” Washington.

The 2012 budget also is a repudiation of the findings of his very own bipartisan deficit commission.

The Bowles-Simpson commission had plenty of sensible recommendations, like cutting funds for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, eliminating the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and raising the qualifying age for Social Security.

But you’ll find precious little of this in the 2012 budget. At the White House, political sense apparently matters a lot more than common sense.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

A Washington Post Editorial–"But where will the money come from?"

Now that bipartisan commission has reported, but Mr. Obama didn’t fully endorse any of its recommendations. To the contrary, he promised more jobs for teachers and construction workers. He warned against “slashing” Social Security benefits. Corporate tax reform is fine, but if it’s revenue-neutral, it only postpones – and makes more politically difficult – the task of narrowing the nation’s deficit.

So what happens now? Maybe some members of Congress will display the courage the president has lacked. Maybe Mr. Obama, in the budget he proposes next month, will grapple more realistically with the hard choices than he did Tuesday night. But even if he does, how can he expect public support if he hasn’t made the case? From the man who promised to change Washington, it seemed all too drearily familiar.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(The Economist) China will have to open its financial market if it wants Yuan to rival the Dollar

Could the yuan become a rival? China’s economy will probably surpass America’s in outright size within 20 years. It is already a bigger exporter. It is prodding firms to settle trade and even acquire foreign companies in its own currency. That is adding to a pool of “redbacks” outside its borders. These offshore yuan are, in turn, being tapped by borrowers, issuing “dim sum” bonds in Hong Kong.

But as the dollar’s history shows, economic clout is not enough without financial sophistication (see article). If foreigners are to store their wealth in yuan, they will need financial instruments that are safe, stable and easily sold. Dim sum makes for a tasty appetiser. But the main feast of China’s financial assets is onshore and off-limits, thanks to its strict capital controls. The government remains deeply reluctant to let foreigners hold, buy and sell these assets, except under tight limits. Indeed, it is barely ready to give its own people financial freedom: interest on bank deposits is capped; shares are largely owned by state entities; and bonds are chiefly held by the banks””which are, in turn, mostly owned by the state.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Currency Markets, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(Washington Post) Chinese President Hu looks for 'common ground' with U.S.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who travels to Washington this week for a state visit after a year marked by disputes and tension with the United States, said the two countries could mutually benefit by finding “common ground” on issues from fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation to cooperating on clean energy and infrastructure development.

“There is no denying that there are some differences and sensitive issues between us,” Hu said in written answers to questions from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He said “We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. relationship, and lose from confrontation.”

To enhance what he called “practical cooperation” on a wide range of issues, Hu urged an increase in dialogues and exchanges and more “mutual trust.” He said, “We should abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality” and, in what seemed like an implicit rejection of U.S. criticisms of China’s internal affairs, said the two should “respect each other’s choice of development path.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ) S&P, Moody's Warn On U.S. Credit Rating

Two leading credit rating agencies on Thursday cautioned the U.S. on its credit rating, expressing concern over a deteriorating fiscal situation that they say needs correction.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Thursday that the U.S. will need to reverse an upward trajectory in the debt ratios to support its triple-A rating.

“We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase,” said Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody’s.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Simon Schama: An America lost in fantasy must recover its dream

Sadder, wiser, those of us gathered on the Washington Mall in the freezing morn of Mr Obama’s inauguration can see now that of all the brave, unsustainable hopes uttered by the new young president, the most unsustainable of all turned out to be his Biblical plea to “put away childish things”. He might as well have tried to legislate the word “dream” out of American public discourse. Dreams? Reality? It’s not even close, is it?

Whether fantasy will prevail over factuality, adolescent wishful thinking over maturity, will be the great political motif of the next few years. The omens are not auspicious….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Mort Zuckerman–The deficits we face are a dagger pointing at the heart of the American economy

The global prosperity of much of the 20th century would seem to belie the pessimists, but I don’t think there is much doubt the moral authority of the West has dramatically declined in the face of the financial crisis. It has revealed deep fault lines within Western economies that have spread to the global economy.

The majority of Western governments are running fiscal deficits of 10 percent or more relative to GDP, but it is increasingly clear that there will be no quick fixes, that big government and fiscal deficits will not bring us back to the status quo ante. Indeed, the tidal wave of red ink has meant that the leverage-led or debt-led growth model is dead.

Developed countries will be forced to deal with their debt on every level, from the personal to the corporate to the sovereign. Being able to borrow may have made people feel richer, but having to repay the debt is certainly making them feel poorer, particularly since the unfunded liabilities that many governments face from aging populations will have to be paid for by a shrinking band of workers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Delaying Vote, Debt Panel Splits on Taxes and Spending

The chairmen of President Obama’s debt-reduction commission have been unable to win support from any of the panel’s elected officials for their proposed spending cuts and tax increases, underscoring the reluctance of both parties to risk short-term political backlash in pursuit of the nation’s long-term fiscal health.

The chairmen of the commission ”” former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine B. Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton ”” delayed for two days, until Friday, a final vote by its 18 members.

They said the delay was to provide more time to look at the final package, but it also gave them further opportunity to woo some of the 12 members of Congress on the commission, six from each party, whose support will be critical if the plan is to be taken seriously as a blueprint for eventual legislation.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Sheila C. Bair: Will the next fiscal crisis start in Washington?

Even as work continues to repair our financial infrastructure and get the economy moving again, we need urgent action to forestall the next financial crisis. I fear that one will start in Washington. Total federal debt has doubled in the past seven years, to almost $14 trillion. That’s more than $100,000 for every American household. This explosive growth in federal borrowing is a result of not just the financial crisis but also government unwillingness over many years to make the hard choices necessary to rein in our long-term structural deficit.

Retiring baby boomers, who will live longer on average than any previous generation, will have a major impact on government spending. This year, the combined expenditures on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to account for 45 percent of primary federal spending, up from 27 percent in 1975. The Congressional Budget Office projects that annual entitlement spending could triple in real terms by 2035, to $4.5 trillion in today’s dollars. Defense spending is similarly unsustainable, and our tax code is riddled with special-interest provisions that have little to do with our broader economic prosperity. Overly generous tax subsidies for housing and health care have contributed to rising costs and misallocation of resources.

Unless something is done, federal debt held by the public could rise from a level equal to 62 percent of gross domestic product this year to 185 percent in 2035. Eventually, this relentless federal borrowing will directly threaten our financial stability by undermining the confidence that investors have in U.S. government obligations….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Martin Feldstein (WSJ): The Deficit Dilemma and Obama's Budget

Surprisingly, the chairmen overlooked the easiest route to reducing the deficits over the next decade: scaling back the costly budget that President Obama presented earlier this year. Much of the projected doubling of the national debt between 2010 and 2020 reflects the spending and tax proposals in that budget.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that those proposals would, if enacted, raise the 10-year budget deficit by $3.8 trillion, even after taking into account the president’s proposed $1.3 trillion of new taxes on businesses and higher-income individuals. The $5.1 trillion gross cost of the Obama proposals reflects the cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent for individuals with incomes below $250,000, of providing additional tax cuts for low- and moderate-income individuals, and of increasing spending on domestic programs.

As President Obama considers the bipartisan commission’s proposals and plans his next budget, he should begin by removing some of the $3.8 trillion of increased deficits that he proposed earlier this year. Financial markets and policy makers around the world want to see if the administration is as serious about deficit reduction as the American public.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)