Dollars and Jens
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Government debt and its statutory ceiling
The government debt ceiling needs to be raised again.
If the debt ceiling actually served to keep spending and borrowing in check, then it might be worth the hassle. But there's no indication that it does. The ceiling was first set in 1917 at $11.5 billion, and has been raised more than 70 times since. In the meantime, the United States has piled up an ever-larger (with some major ups and downs through the decades) nominal debt and yet somehow avoided financial ruin.I agree pretty closely with what this guy says, in particular
So yes, the nation's fiscal position has worsened significantly during the Bush presidency, and for that the president and Congress deserve to catch flak. But those who yelp about "record" deficits and "record" debt and imminent bankruptcy are blowing smoke. "The fiscal debt of the U.S. is not at an alarming level," S&P's Chambers says.
What is alarming is the projected long-run funding shortfall in Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare (especially Medicare) -- which doesn't show up in today's budgets and isn't subject to any kind of legal ceiling. Estimates of its size, expressed as the present value of future unfunded obligations, go as high as $98 trillion — many times the current GDP of $12.5 trillion.