As of midnight Monday, the government shutdown is upon us. But this is only the first of several budget-battle flashpoints coming over the next few months that will thrash the markets. And despite the angst it will bring, every Washington screwup has a silver lining for investors who know how to play it...
obama debt ceiling
- Why the Government Shutdown Is Good for Investors
- Debt Ceiling Bill Nothing More Than a Band-Aid
- The Debt Ceiling 2013: How We Got Here, What Could Happen
- Are Steep U.S. Spending Cuts Inevitable?
- Will the Debt Ceiling be Good for Gold and Silver?
- Debt Ceiling Bill Intensifies Budget Pressure on Congress
- Debt Ceiling Bill Includes Controversial "No Pay" Plan
- The Debt Ceiling Isn't What Worries Warren Buffett
- U.S. Debt Ceiling: Government "Borrows" Pension Funds to Avoid Default
- Why You Should Ignore the Coming Debt Ceiling Debate
We have a short-term debt ceiling fix - with emphasis on short term.
U.S. President Barack Obama Monday night signed into law a bill suspending the debt ceiling, a move that allows the government to avoid default-at least until August when Congress will again have to act to prevent such a scenario.
The new law lifts the current debt limit through May 18, allowing the federal government to continuing borrowing to pay its bills until then.
But Congress does have more leeway than the May 18 deadline. The Treasury can use "extraordinary measures" to access funds, which will give it until August before the risk of default comes up again.
A new twist to investing and financial planning is averting travesties that the government itself created; first it was the fiscal cliff, now it's the debt ceiling 2013.
The debt ceiling is a part of the way government has to go about doing its business.
However, both sides of Washington have come to use the full faith and credit of the United States of America as a bargaining chip - and the consequences are huge.
But it wasn't always like this.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is adamant Republicans will resist any further tax increases - a staunch GOP stance that makes steep spending cuts almost certain.
Ryan, the 2012 vice president nominee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that the $1.2 trillion worth of automatic spending cuts will take effect because "Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others."In the NBC interview, Ryan took aim at President Barack Obama.
"I don't think that the president actually thinks we have a fiscal crisis," Ryan said. "He's been reportedly saying to our leaders that we don't have a spending problem, we have a healthcare problem. That leads me to conclude that he just thinks we ought to have more government-run healthcare and rationing."
Investors preparing for Washington's budget battle need to know: Will the debt ceiling be good for gold and silver?
Thanks to recent legislation passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, the debt ceiling could be extended until May 19. The bill now moves onto the Senate where it is expected to get the green light, then should be signed quickly by U.S. President Barack Obama.
That gives investors time to prepare for what any budget decision - or indecision - out of Washington will do for their investments.
While the bill leaves the government without a long-term budget strategy, investors ought to have a plan in place.
One thing they can plan on is higher silver and gold, and here's why.
The debt-ceiling showdown took center stage on Capitol Hill today (Wednesday) as a crucial vote on a Republican bill gave the Treasury the green light to borrow a fresh stash of cash until May 19.
The Republican-controlled House passed the bill by a 284-144 margin.
It now moves on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass quickly without any changes.
Senate Democrats are expected to back the plan even though they have been hesitant to support any short-term debt ceiling fix, maintaining it creates additional uncertainty for businesses and families.
"I'm very glad that (House Republicans) are going to send us a clean debt-ceiling bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.
The measure would go from the Senate to U.S. President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly said he will not wrangle over the debt ceiling and will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Pleased with the results, the White House added a "but," saying it would have liked a longer- term solution.
While the legislation looked extremely likely to make it to the Oval Office, there is still a chance it could get tangled up in Congress, given a controversial provision in the bill.
The legislation includes a divisive rider aimed at coercing Senate Democrats to ink a long-term budget deal. The "no budget- no pay" provision would withhold pay for members of Congress until a sustainable deal is agreed upon.
"It's not a slam dunk. But the main thing is that the Republicans will cave on the debt ceiling. So we're now just arguing over the details," Greg Valliere, chief political strategist for Potomac Research Group, told CNN Money ahead of the voting.
Republicans will vote tomorrow (Wednesday) on a debt ceiling bill that will give Congress nearly four months to make some major budget decisions - or risk losing out on pay.
The bill aims "to ensure complete and timely payment of the obligations of the United States Government until May 19, 2013," according to a release Monday from the House Rules Committee. Exactly how much the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling will be lifted hasn't been discussed.
In a significant shift in GOP strategy, the legislation does not include specific spending cuts, like previously when Republicans have requested dollar-for-dollar cuts to match the debt ceiling increase.
What it could include is a requirement for both the House and Senate to pass a budget by as early as April 15 or have Congress members' salaries held in escrow until one is passed - what the GOP has coined a "no budget, no pay" rule.
"[I]f the Senate of House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, said last week.
Investment guru Warren Buffett isn't sweating the debt ceiling as much as he is some of the country's other issues.
Buffett this weekend said the $16.4 trillion in debt the country has collected is not the number on which everyone should be focused.
"It is not a good thing to have it going up in relation to GDP, that should be stabilized, but the debt itself is not a problem," the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) told CBS' "Sunday Morning" this weekend.
Buffett said the country's debt is a "lower percentage of GDP than it was when we came out of World War II. You've got to think about in relation to GDP."
Here's why debt-to-GDP is what Buffett watches.
The U.S. Treasury, in order to avoid default, has resorted to an eyebrow-raising move: it has borrowed from the federal employee pension fund as the country nears its debt ceiling.
The U.S. government stopped investing in the federal employee pension fund Tuesday "to avoid breaching the statutory debt limit," according to a letter Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent to Congress.
Geithner said that the move will free up some $156 billion in borrowing authority, while policy leaders in Washington wrangle over raising the $16.4 trillion debt limit.
Geithner promised the fund would be "made whole once the debt limit is increased," and maintains that federal employees and retirees would not be affected by the action.
But an IOU from the federal government isn't very settling for those relying on the fund for retirement.
But don't be fooled. This so-called debate will be nothing more than a planned-in-advance sideshow to supply each side with 2012 election campaign fodder.
The deal put in place on Aug. 2 essentially guaranteed that the limit on the U.S. national debt would be raised to $16.4 trillion in January. That means any sound and fury that emanates from Washington this week over raising the debt limit will signify nothing.
"It's pro-forma. They already made a deal to raise the debt ceiling last time around," said Shah Gilani, Money Morning Capital Waves Strategist and author of the Wall Street Insights & Indictments newsletter. "The President has to ask for the increase -- which makes it look like he caused it -- and the Republicans get to display anger that "here we are again.' But it's a game they agreed to earlier."
The deal in August intentionally split the debt ceiling increase into three separate requests to set up these faux debates for public consumption.
U.S. President Barack Obama did his part on Thursday by making a formal request for the $1.2 trillion increase in the debt limit.
That was the cue for Republicans in the House of Representatives to draft a "resolution of disapproval" which they will debate and vote on this week. And given that the GOP has a majority in the House, the resolution is guaranteed to pass.
In this play's next scene, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejects the resolution, which allows President Obama's requested debt ceiling increase to take effect by default - just as all sides envisioned back in August.
And even if a few rebellious Democratic Senators vote with their Republican colleagues, President Obama can veto the resolution. With the odds of Congress overriding a veto near zero, the debt ceiling increase is pretty much a lock.
But the show must go on.