On a warm D.C. Friday evening, our pals over at the U.S. Treasury, led by our revered Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, put out a little report that they didn’t want you to see. After all, who’s looking for news on a Friday night?
In that little report, they just happened to mention that U.S. debt will rise to at most $13.6 trillion (as if the government has never underestimated a time or two).
For all of you 110 million taxpaying Americans, that’s $123,636 each, and that’s probably just the low estimate.
But it gets even better. By 2015, based on our current path of spending, out debt will be a paltry $19.6 trillion.
For those keeping score, that’s $178,181 for each taxpaying American, assuming that there are 110 million taxpaying Americans by 2015.
You see, our buddies in Washington, D.C., named Obama, Biden and Geithner want as few Americans as possible paying taxes.
Currently 47 percent of taxpayer-eligible Americans do not pay income taxes and that number is rising steadily.
So, let’s say if that number creeps up and only 100 million Americans are paying taxes, then each taxpayer will have a bill of $196,000 even. Considering this is the federal government we are talking about let’s just round it up to an even $200k.
For most taxpaying Americans, this means that you will owe more than what you take in during any given year, which sounds about right considering that by 2015 our debt will be 102 percent of our GDP, meaning that we will owe more than what we collect.
“The president’s economic experts say a 1 percent increase in GDP can create almost 1 million jobs, and that 1 percent is what experts think we are losing because of the debt’s massive drag on our economy,” said Republican Representative Dave Camp.
Conservatively, if our national debt is costing us 1 million jobs a year, by 2015 it would have cost the United States some 5 million jobs. With a current unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, I’m sure that those jobs could come in handy.
Many will argue that it took massive government spending to save the economy from utter collapse after the Lehman Brothers Crisis of September 2008.
While the U.S. may not be in utter ruin, no one knows if a collapse was avoided or just delayed. For that only time will tell.
However, there is another way.
Our neighbor to the north, Canada, went through “The Great Recession” relatively unscathed.
For example, since 2008 243 banks have failed or gone bankrupt in the United States.
Guess how many in Canada?
That’s right. Zero. Not a single bank went under during “The Great Recession.” In fact, since 2008 Canadian banks have increased their lending to the private sector.
Contrast that to the U.S. where banks put the clamps on all lending which led to a huge downturn in consumer spending, which as we’ve found out is mostly dependent on borrowing.
So what’s Canada’s secret? How did they avoid the recession? How can we learn from them?
First, let’s make one thing clear. The Canadians weren’t great visionaries. They didn’t see the recession coming when others failed. The Canadians simply learned from their mistakes.
During the last major global recession of the early 1990s (remember the dot-com bust was largely an American phenomenon), banks were overextended. Real estate, particularly commercial real estate, saw a huge boom and subsequent bust. The banks who lent ridiculous sums of money and the government that had to clean up the mess were left holding the bag.
It was then that Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien decided to cut his country’s deficit. In 1993 Canada’s deficit to GDP ratio was 66 percent. By 1998, Canada was running a surplus.
Truth be told, Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led Congress had us running budget surpluses at the time. The main difference is that once the U.S. started running surpluses, George W. Bush thought it would be a good time to start running up those old deficits again. Canada learned their lesson from the last recession.
During the period from 1998-2008, the Canadian government as well as Canadian companies took great measures to lower their debt to GDP equity ratios. This meant that when the recession hit, Canadian companies and their government were not excessively leveraged, and thus weren’t largely affected by the credit crisis.
Compare that now to the United States, whose debt to GDP level currently is at 93 percent, and who during the boom years of 2003-2008, didn’t spend a single dime, governmentally or corporately, to pay down debt.
Some people think that America will be able to borrow until the end of time. The world is dependent upon the U.S. dollar to do business. If you want to buy oil or gold, you have to buy U.S. dollars first. Most international business transactions are denominated in dollars. So there will always be an appetite for U.S. dollars, hence giving us the ability to borrow indefinitely.
Two things I’ll say to that. To take a line from Daniel Hannan, you cannot borrow your way out of debt or spend your way to prosperity. It sounds very simple, because it is.
The second thing I’ll say is that sometimes, enough is enough. At some point the rest of the world is going to get tired of having our dollar inflate (hence reduce the value of their business transactions and holdings). At some point countries like China will grow tired of lending to the United States and will cut off the piggy bank.
And when the Chinese cut off the cash machine, that’s when it becomes time to pay up. So when that happens, make sure that you have your $123,636, or whatever amount it is at that point, ready to go because eventually it will come time to pay the piper. America consider yourself warned.