While everyone in Washington right now is patting themselves on the back in the wake of Wednesday's debt ceiling deal, the reality is that it does little to address the nation's deepest budget issues.
True, the Band-Aid agreement will fund the U.S. government through Jan. 15 and lift the debt limit through Feb. 7.Here are the four biggest issues that Congress ducked out on...
As Greek Debt Default Nears, Investors Need to Take Cover
At this point a Greek debt default is virtually unavoidable, and it could happen in a matter of weeks.
The ensuing chain reaction will upend markets around the world and will almost surely lead to more defaults among the European Union's (EU) other debt-plagued nations, collectively known as the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).
The bond markets have already passed sentence, with the yield on two-year Greek bonds spiking to an astronomical 76% yesterday (Tuesday). Yields on 10-year Greek bonds rose to 24%.
By comparison, the 10-year bond yields of another PIIGS nation, Italy, rose to 5.74%. Meanwhile, bond yields for the EU's strongest economy, Germany, have dropped below 2%.
The credit default swap (CDS) markets, where investors can insure their bond purchases against default, agree with the bond markets' verdict. As of Monday it cost $5.8 million and $100,000 annually to insure $10 million worth of Greek debt for five years, which means the CDS market now considers default a 98% probability.
Most European stock markets have been hammered over the past several weeks, with some dropping as much as 25%.
"Default is inevitable," said Money Morning Global Investment Strategist Martin Hutchinson. "Greeks are paid about twice as much as they should be, and that gap can't be solved by austerity."
How Soon is NowIn recent weeks Germany has shown more reluctance to dig deeper into its own pockets to bail out Greece and the other PIIGS. At the same time, Greece has struggled to implement the austerity measures that are required if it is to continue receiving aid from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Greece's budget deficit has increased 22% this year, while its economy is projected to shrink more than 5%.
Every new development appears to bring Greece closer to the brink of default - and some see that happening in the very near future.
"My guess is there will be a Greek debt default by the end of this fiscal quarter - yeah, that means very soon," said Money Morning Capital Waves Strategist Shah Gilani.
To continue reading, please click here...
Don't Look Now but the National Debt Could be $23 Trillion by 2021
There was a lot of back-patting in Washington this week after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a debt-ceiling deal that he and members of Congress claim will reduce the national debt.
But here's the truth: This deal does nothing to reduce America's debt burden. In fact, the $14 trillion we owe now could every easily exceed $23 trillion by 2021.
That's a 62% increase.
It only takes a little bit of number crunching to see what I mean.
The deal brokered by Congress cuts spending by just $917 billion over a 10-year period, with a special congressional committee assigned to find another $1.5 trillion in deficit savings by late November.
Even if you round up, that $2.5 trillion in "savings" over a 10-year period is inconsequential when you consider that President Obama added nearly $4 trillion to the national debt in just a few short years in office.
How can you make any progress on the debt front when you're adding $4 billion in new liabilities every day?
And the story is even worse than that: According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), even the $2.5 trillion the government claims to be saving is quickly vaporized by inflation and lost economic output.
CBO: Contrary to Barack ObamaThe CBO in January estimated that a 0.1% reduction in growth rates would increase the deficit by $310 billion over the next 10 years, while a 1% increase in inflation rate would increase the deficit by $867 billion.
The CBO projects the average growth rate from 2011 to 2016 will be 3.25%, and the non-partisan group has the average rate of inflation pegged at 1.55% over that same period.
However, growth in the first half of 2011was 0.8% and the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation index - the type of inflation the CBO looks at - was 3.5%.
So let's do the math.
If growth and inflation statistics magically revert to CBO expectations - which would be a long shot considering how much they're already off - then the budget deficit over the next 10 years would rise by $928 billion. That alone is more than enough to wipe out the $917 billion of initial savings in the debt-ceiling bill.
To continue reading, please click here.
Even on the Brink of a Government Shutdown, Congress Still Doesn't Get it
At the risk of sounding trite, let me just say that "here we go again."
Overnight budget talks failed to lead to a federal budget agreement, and now we're just a few hours from the first U.S. government shutdown in 15 years. The shutdown could put 800,000 federal employees out of work, while creating a nightmare for U.S. taxpayers who are regular users of government services.
As bad as that all sounds, the shutdown threat isn't the worst thing I see here - not by a longshot.
The worst thing is that - with a $14.2 trillion national debt - the part of the budget the two sides are squabbling over is miniscule. Democrats have agreed to $34.5 billion in spending cuts, while the Republicans have agreed to $39 billion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
It's a rounding error.
To continue reading, please click here...
Federal Budget Deficit Climbing Dangerously Higher on Continued 2011 Government Spending
On the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address - during which the commander in chief highlighted the need for investment in innovation - a steep federal budget deficit projection yesterday (Wednesday) showed the harsh reality of the U.S. government's spending spree.
In the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) economic outlook report, the nonpartisan body estimated the budget deficit would reach $1.5 trillion in 2011, or 9.8% of gross domestic product (GDP). The report cited the Bush-tax-cut extension, low production, and a weak labor market as key factors for reducing revenue, increasing spending and pushing the deficit higher in fiscal 2011.
This year's federal budget deficit is up from $1.3 trillion in 2010 and $1.4 trillion in 2009. The deficits, when measured as a percentage of GDP were the largest since 1945, reaching 8.9% in 2010 and 10% in 2009.