IMF, China, Japan warn USA’s debts on default! Demystifying the US debt ceiling


US debt default

UNITED States (U.S.) President Barack Obama Tuesday declared that he was willing to negotiate with Republicans in passing at least a short-term budget that opens up the government at current funding levels.

But Obama, during a media briefing Tuesday, said his offer to negotiate with Republicans on the issues would “absolutely” stand if Congress passes even short-term clean spending and debt ceiling bills.

However, he declared that “the only thing that I will say is, we’re not going to pay ransom for” America paying its bills.

This came as it was revealed yesterday that there are no talks going on at any level to resolve differences over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling deadline.

But Washington’s march toward self-inflicted financial calamity is setting off alarm bells around the world as general bewilderment turns into genuine concern over a possible default by the world’s lone superpower.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as China and Japan – which hold a combined $2.4 trillion in U.S. debt – have called for a quick resolution to the crisis and expressed worries over the economic consequences of a default.

Meanwhile, Obama said U.S. credit-worthiness will be affected if markets see that “we’re not paying all our bills on time.”

Noting that he missed a major conference in Asia this week because of the government shutdown issues, said the president said: “whenever we do these things, it hurts our credibility around the world. Makes it look like we don’t have our act together.”

He warned that if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, “every American could see their 401Ks and home values fall,” and the country would see a “very significant risk” of a deep recession.

Obama said that Congress has to vote to raise the debt ceiling as soon as it votes to reopen the government. Failing to raise the debt ceiling “would be dramatically worse” than a government shutdown, he said.

He criticised House Republican tactics in dealing with the government shutdown and a debt ceiling increase. “Let’s lift these threats from our families and our businesses and let’s get down to work,” he told reporters yesterday.

Obama spoke after Republicans reportedly offered a new approach yesterday to resolve the U.S. fiscal standoff, proposing creation of a bipartisan panel to work on deficit reduction and find ways to end the government shutdown and make recommendations on a debt-limit increase.

The proposal, which was quickly dismissed by Democrats, came as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama spoke by telephone shortly after Boehner adopted a slightly more conciliatory tone in comments to reporters.

“There are no boundaries here. There’s nothing on the table, there’s nothing off the table,” Boehner said after a meeting with House Republicans, making no mention of his recent demands to delay parts of Obama’s healthcare law in return for approving funds to end the government shutdown.

In the first official response by China, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said that a solution must be found quickly in order to “ensure the safety of Chinese investments” and provide stability for economies around the globe.

“We ask that the United States earnestly take steps to resolve in a timely way the political issues around the debt ceiling and prevent a debt default,” he said. “This is the United States’ responsibility.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has trimmed its forecast for global economic growth at the same time as lifting its UK growth projection.

It now expects global growth of 2.9% this year, a cut of 0.3% from July’s estimate. In 2014 it expects global growth of 3.6%, down 0.2%.

It cited weakness in emerging economies for the cut.

But it warns that the political standoff over raising the US government’s borrowing limit, if it results in the US defaulting on its debt payments, “could seriously damage the global economy”.

It expects growth of 1.6% in the US this year and 2.6% next year, down 0.1% and 0.2% from its July forecast.

Economists have predicted that a default would do great harm to economies around the world.
Obama recounted to reporters his telephone discussion yesterday morning with House Speaker John Boehner:

He was happy to eventually talk with Republicans about issues they care about, but that “shouldn’t require threats of a government shutdown” or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.

Yesterday, there were news conferences and a high-level phone call between Obama and the House Speaker, but no immediate sign of progress on reopening the government a week into a partial shutdown or reaching a deal to avoid the first-ever U.S. default next week.

Obama called Boehner yesterday morning, and the White House then announced the president would make a statement and take some questions from reporters at 2 p.m. ET.

Earlier, Boehner demanded that Obama and Democrats negotiate with Republicans on steps needed to end the shutdown that began on October 1 and raise the nation’s debt ceiling before the deadline for default on October 17.

“Americans expect us to work out our differences, but refusing to negotiate is an untenable position,” Boehner said, adding that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are “putting our country on a pretty dangerous path” by rejecting GOP calls for talks

– The Guardian

Demystifying the US debt ceiling: 5 things you should know

As the US government is about to hit its so-called debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion on Oct. 17, the frightening prospect of the world’s biggest economy running out of cash is dominating headlines around the globe.

So, in an effort to shine some light on what exactly the debt ceiling means to all of us, Business RT spoke to leading Moscow financial expert Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Macro-Advisory.com.

What exactly is the “debt ceiling?”
 
The US debt ceiling has existed for almost a century, and describes the maximum amount of money the US can legally borrow. The country introduced the legislative limit on its debt back in 1917, and since then it has stipulated the affordable amount of national debt that can be issued by the US Treasury. As of September 25, the US Treasury reported federal government debt at just shy of $16.7 trillion
($16,699,396,000,000.00, to be exact) in its daily statement, a figure which has been reported for 130 days straight. This is about $25 billion shy of the precise legal limit – $16,699,421,095,673.60. When the US approaches this debt limit, it can take some “extraordinary measures” to buy some time before Congress agrees to raise the ceiling. In its entire history, the US has so far never reached the point of default, where Treasury can’t pay its debt obligations.

Who holds the US debt?
 

The US owes about two-thirds of its debt to US-based creditors, with almost 66 percent of the country’s debt held domestically. US individuals and financial institutions hold around 31.7 percent of US Treasuries, with the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, which holds some 12 percent of the debt. Foreign creditors, including China and Japan, own an estimated 34 percent of total US government debt. These two ‘big lender’ countries have recently urged the US to take decisive steps to avoid a default.

3 What does the US borrow the money for?
 
In the US, often referred to as a ‘big-spending’ country, both individuals and the government have habitually spent more than they earn, pushing the economy deeper into debt.

“Just like any ordinary individual, the choice is either to cut back on spending or to borrow money to bridge the gap,” Weafer says.

In 2012, 22 percent of total government expenditures went to social security (means-tested payments to the poor and unemployed), while 21 percent was spent on healthcare, again mostly for poor Americans who cannot afford private health insurance. The third largest expenditure item is defense at 19 percent. In recent decades, the US defense bill has ballooned, mainly due to costly wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The so-called War on Terror has also added greatly to the debt burden, while the Department of Homeland Security, created after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, has cost taxpayers more than a cumulative $800 billion.

The biggest contributory factor to the fast-growing debt mountain in recent years, however, has been the economic crisis that began in 2008. Apart from hundreds of billions of dollars paid out to rescue failing Wall Street banks that had made too many toxic loans, the US government has also paid out large amounts on vital social programs to aid the growing ‘army of the unemployed’. Coupled with the Bush-era tax cuts to the rich and big business, lower average incomes and greater unemployment have hit government tax revenues hard, sending federal government debt sky-high.

Why can’t they simply print more dollars and pay their debt?
 

No economy in the world can simply turn on its printing presses and create as much cash as it wishes, as this would make its currency worthless.

“If the amount of currency in issue is not sensibly related to the strength of the economy, then foreign trade partners will … devalue the currency quickly,” Weafer explains. “If you have one asset and income source which allows you to issue one dollar, and then you print one more dollar, everybody else will see what you have done and will value your one dollar at only 50 cents. Some countries have done that in the past, but in those cases people soon had to use suitcases just to carry enough currency to buy a loaf of bread.”
 
Under the Bretton Woods financial system, established in 1944, the amount of currency in circulation was linked to gold reserves. But in 1971, the US abandoned this system and started to include a number of other economic factors, based on a recognized ability to service debt and prevent inflation, and maintain orderly trade with the rest of the world.

5 How would a US default affect people around the world, on a macro and personal level?
 
If the US defaulted, then the world’s financial system “would start to freeze up,” Weafer says. “Banks would pull back from risk and lending. The US economy would slide towards recession and the global economy would quickly be affected.” A prolonged US default would lead to job losses everywhere and much tougher borrowing conditions for companies and individuals, he adds.

“A short period of default would also have a bad effect in that it would hurt confidence in the world’s financial system,” he says. “Bankers and investors would assume that a short-term fix in the US would mean it would only be a matter of time before the same issue arises again in 2014. The resulting caution would make life that much tougher for all of us.”
 
– RT news

Related post:
 USA government shutdown !

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