BY SIMON BLACK
OK, this is pretty nuts.
According to data released by the Treasury Department yesterday, the US national debt has soared by a whopping $294 billion since the start of the 2017 fiscal year, just 45 days ago.
That’s an annualized increase of 13%.
So if they keep up this pace, the national debt will increase by $2.4 trillion this fiscal year, surpassing $21 trillion by next September.
It’s hard to believe how rapidly the debt is growing; debt growth is far outpacing the growth of the US economy… and there’s no way to pretend that this is good news.
That doesn’t stop leading economists from trying.
Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman says “debt is good” because the US economy has grown so much over the last 200 years despite not having been debt-free since 1835.
This kind of logic is astonishing.
Aside from a few anomalies like World War II and the American Civil War, debt levels over most of early American history were low.
100 years ago in 1916, US debt was about $3.6 billion; as a percentage of GDP (i.e. the size of the US economy), that was about 7%.
Today’s debt of $19,867,119,032,053.28 is actually bigger than the entire US economy at over 106% of GDP.
Yet in Krugman’s view, the fact that America prospered a century ago when the debt was 7% of GDP means that the nation will continue to prosper with a debt at 106% of GDP.
Amazingly enough, Krugman has been awarded our society’s most esteemed prize for intellectual achievement. It boggles the mind.
To be fair, there is such a thing as “good debt” versus “bad debt”, and it’s not difficult to distinguish between the two.
If you can borrow money at 5% in order to make a safe investment that has a 25% return, for example, that may very well qualify as “good debt”.
If you borrow money at 5%… or even 1%… and then squander the borrowed funds on useless trinkets, that’s clearly “bad debt”.
In 1803, the startup US government negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from France, a real estate acquisition that doubled the size of the US.
It was the mother of all distress sales. France was desperate for cash, and the administration of Thomas Jefferson negotiated a price that valued the land at around $15 million.
Adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars, Thomas Jefferson paid about 40 cents per acre to acquire the land that comprises fifteen states and has generated trillions in economic activity.
Naturally the US government had to borrow money that year to conclude the Louisiana Purchase with France, so the national debt increased slightly in 1804.
But when you consider the extraordinary economic benefit of that purchase, it clearly qualifies as “good debt”.
Fast-forward to our modern era and we see that the debt is increasing by more than a trillion dollars each year.
What are the good citizens of the United States receiving in exchange for taking on so much debt?
It’s not like the government bought up half of Mexico or colonized Mars.
No, instead they wasted $2 billion on the Obamacare website, most of which went to a company whose top executive just happens to be an old friend of Michelle Obama.
Today, the US government has to borrow money just to pay interest on the money it’s already borrowed. This is almost the textbook definition of bad debt…
In fact, the government now spends nearly all of its tax revenue just on mandatory entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, plus interest on the debt.
The real kicker is that Social Security and Medicare are massively underfunded and quickly running out of cash… so they’ll both require a major bailout (i.e. MORE debt).
Interest payments, meanwhile, total hundreds of billions of dollars each year even though interest rates are at record lows.
Today the government pays less than 2% interest on its debt.
Ten years ago in 2006, the average interest rate on US debt was over 5%.
Back then 5% was considered incredibly low compared to the higher interest rates of the 1980s and 1990s.
But today, 5% would bankrupt the US government. It’s pitiful.
So unless interest rates stay at these record lows forever (or perhaps go negative), the government’s interest payments are going to explode.
Debt… particularly bad debt… is an absolute killer.
Excess debt has been responsible for bringing down some of the largest companies in the world. It bankrupts individuals.
And excess debt has caused the decline of some of the largest superpowers in the history of the world.
There are a lot of people, led by their cheerleader Paul Krugman, who outright ignore this problem and pretend that the US government can continue expanding its debt forever without ever suffering a single consequence.
And I know there are a lot of people keeping their fingers crossed hoping that a new administration will steer the ship in the right direction.
Look, I’m all for hope and optimism.
But it’s important to stay rational. These problems aren’t going away.
And you won’t be worse off for having a Plan B that provides solid protection from the consequences of these obvious trends.
Do you have a Plan B?
If you live, work, bank, invest, own a business, and hold your assets all in just one country, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket.
You’re making a high-stakes bet that everything is going to be ok in that one country — forever.
All it would take is for the economy to tank, a natural disaster to hit, or the political system to go into turmoil and you could lose everything—your money, your assets, and possibly even your freedom.
Luckily, there are a number of simple, logical steps you can take to protect yourself from these obvious risks:
Some users of Obamacare are finding the medical care they need to be too expensive to use due to high deductibles and high out-of-pocket costs.
Michelle Harris is one of those people. Harris, a 61-year-old retired waitress in northwest Montana, has arthritis in both shoulders but is doing everything she can to avoid seeing a doctor due to the $4,500 deductible and $338 a month in premiums under her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.
“It hurts, but we don’t have that kind of money,” Harris said to Bloomberg Politics. “So I deal with it.”
Some insurance plans under Obamacare are designed not to kick in until patients have spent thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs, which put many healthcare services out of reach for patients.
Even though the uninsured rate in America is at a record low, a study from the Commonwealth Fund found that four out of 10 adults in Obamacare plans aren’t confident that they can pay their medical bills if they got sick, Bloomberg Politics reported.
“A lot of people are still one catastrophic illness away from really feeling the financial impact of this,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “They’re underinsured, and that means they’re not going to get all the services that they want or that they need.”
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times found that one in five people with insurance said they or someone in their household had difficulty paying medical bills compared to half for those without insurance, Bloomberg Politics reported.
Courtney Shove, a 38-year-old who lives in Memphis works at a small non-profit without health benefits and spends about $267 a month for a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with a $2,500 deductible.
Next year, the cheapest plan for her will cost about $40 more with a $6,650 deductible.
“When I think about what’s going to come out of my pocket, I’m not happy about it at all,” she said. “I’ve never been without insurance, so I guess I’ll probably just get the cheapest plan and go from there.”
Hillary Clinton sure does love us millennials. Even the deplorable basement dwellers among us. Oh yeah, and in closed door speeches for the banks, Hillary Clinton has assured Wall Street executives she’ll do everything in her power to keep cannabis illegal, whereas Donald Trump on the campaign trail has confirmed he’ll introduce LEGAL medical cannabis in the United States, and will work to protect the states rights of those states that have already introduced legal recreational cannabis use, or that plan to. Similarly, Hillary is saber rattling for war with Russia, a nuclear power that has in no way direct or otherwise attacked the United States… nor has it even provoked us! She’s just loony, can’t figure out how her own email security, starts blaming it on the freakin’ Russians—that’s what crazy old people do. And we pity crazy old people. We try to help them out. But we do not elect them as President of the United States, especially when we have a perfectly competent and NOT CORRUPT alternative: Donald Trump.
I’m 30; I rent and probably will into the foreseeable future. Home ownership has become out of reach for many millennials. Car ownership has become unrealistic for many millennials. I have multiple sources of income and they are highly variable – many millennials deal with this; income variability and the burden of the ‘self employment tax’ when we are basically underemployed roaming contractors for various corporations, not strictly speaking at all ‘self employed.’ Then, as I discuss toward the end, there’s the financial burden Obamacare places on already strapped millennials – it’s untenable. Trump will repeal Obamacare and replace it with something humane, but realistic: with interstate competition allowed between insurance companies (as logic would dictate!), and a safety net for those who truly need it.
Published on Nov 2, 2016
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