Federal Debt and the Risk of a Financial Crisis

Discussion in 'Politics' started by KenH, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. KenH

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    May 18, 2002
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    Sobering. Very sobering.

    Federal Debt and the Risk of a Financial Crisis

    In fiscal crises in a number of countries around the world, investors have lost confidence in governments’ abilities to manage their budgets, and those governments have lost their ability to borrow at affordable rates. With U.S. government debt already at a level that is high by historical standards, and the prospect that, under current policies, federal debt would continue to grow, it is possible that interest rates might rise gradually as investors’ confidence in the U.S. government’s finances declined, giving legislators sufficient time to make policy choices that could avert a crisis. It is also possible, however, that investors would lose confidence abruptly and interest rates on government debt would rise sharply, as evidenced by the experiences of other countries.

    Unfortunately, there is no way to predict with any confidence whether and when such a crisis might occur in the United States. In a brief released today, CBO notes that there is no identifiable “tipping point” of debt relative to the nation’s output (gross domestic product, or GDP) that would indicate that such a crisis is likely or imminent. However, in the United States, the ratio of federal debt to GDP is climbing into unfamiliar territory—and all else being equal, the higher the debt, the greater the risk of such a crisis.


    Options for responding to a fiscal crisis would be limited and unattractive. The government would need to undertake some combination of three actions. One action could be changing the terms of its existing debt. This would make it difficult and costly to borrow in the future. A second action could be adopting an inflationary monetary policy by increasing the supply of money. However, this approach would have negative consequences for both the economy and future budget deficits. A third action could be implementing an austerity program of spending cuts and tax increases. Such budgetary adjustments, in the face of a fiscal crisis, would be more drastic and painful than those that would have been necessary had the adjustments come sooner.

    - rest at http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=1249

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