Yesterday, the U.S. had their mid-term elections and there are certainly some interesting philosophies and policy suggestions raised when it come to debt and financing.
A number of very conservative Tea Party Republicans were elected as senators yesterday. Their common belief, and quite correctly, is that the deficit (spending) is out of control, and spending has to be curtailed – NOW. OK, but between March and June of next year they will need to vote on increasing the debt limit. That’s the total the government owes, but something nobody really talks about at all. That’s kind of like the U.S. credit limit, and it has to be voted on a specific day when the debt ceiling is reached.
Will these senators stand on principal and refuse to vote for it? If so, you are going to see a huge, immediate, and world-wide impact on the stock market, consumer confidence, the dollar, and many other areas. It will also immediately shut down all but essential government services. Will they do it on principal, no matter what the implications?
What drove me insane yesterday were a bunch of politicians flagrantly refusing to answer direct questions of what spending they would cut. For the entire election campaign, it was nothing but generalities and buzzwords. That sounds nice, but specifically, what would you cut? Pretty much all of them said it couldn’t, and wouldn’t be defense, social security, and medicare. Fine, but there’s a problem: These three areas are around 93% of all federal spending. So what does that leave?
The equivalent is that you can’t or won’t cut your spending on housing, vehicles financed, and utilities. What does that leave where you can have a meaningful impact on your debt? Yup – nothing. Take a $4,000 income, and now work with only 7% that you can impact. That’s $280. Can you work your way out of an incredible mountain of debt when all you can work with is maybe 5 or 10% of that $280? It’s nuts. It’s political talk, and it’s ridiculous.
There are literally trillions of dollars that the U.S. government has in unfunded liabilities. That’s IOUs for pensions and medicare that are not funded and for which there’s no money. Yet, there was no talk about that. They can’t even come up with specific solutions to today’s debt – never mind the next wave that will hit within five or ten years.
There’s a Canadian politician that coined the phrase: Elections aren’t the time to talk about policy. Yesterday’s elections reminded me of that. Or essentially, we’re pretty much too stupid to understand policy questions and meaningful solutions.
Lastly, you know I’m not in favour of debt and borrowing. But in the U.S., and Canada, there are only three groups that can spend in the economy: Consumers, businesses, and the government. In a recession as severe as the one just ending, consumers stopped spending, as did businesses. Who does that leave? Can you imagine how much worse it would have been without the government infrastructure spending?
And ironically, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce heavily lobbied politicians two years ago to vote in favor of the stimulus programs. A year later, they’re spending tens of millions in campaign money against those same people who did! But that’s not much different than what some of the opposition parties did in Canada. Ah, if we could only be like politicians and have it both ways – all the time. Unfortunately, for us, in the real world – that’s not reality.