Is It Really the Debt?

The ongoing collapse in Europe, and the increasing possibility of a “Fall 2008″-like series of events there has the Eurozone trading under pressure.

In the US, its supposedly the SuperCommittee that is the source of our woes — but I somehow doubt that is the problem. Their inability to accomplish anything was telegraphed a long time ago, and it was all but inevitable that failure was a high probability outcome.

Those folks truly concerned about the long term debt of the United States, and not merely deficit peacocks playing politics, consider what E.J. Dionne wrote last week:

“Here is a surefire way to cut $7.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Do nothing.

That’s right. If Congress simply fails to act between now and Jan. 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer’s debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away.”

Those people lamenting the SuperCommittee failure are missing the bigger picture. The savings, as detailed here, are as follows:

• $3.3 trillion from letting temporary income and estate tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2003, 2009, and 2010 expire on scheduled at the end of 2012 (presuming Congress also lets relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax expire, as noted below);

• $0.8 trillion from allowing other temporary tax cuts (the “extenders” that Congress has regularly extended on a “temporary” basis) expire on scheduled;

• $0.3 trillion from letting cuts in Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled under current law (required under the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula enacted in 1997, but which have been postponed since 2003) take effect;

• $0.7 trillion from letting the temporary increase in the exemption amount under the Alternative Minimum Tax expire, thereby returning the exemption to the level in effect in 2001;

• $1.2 trillion from letting the sequestration of spending required if the Joint Committee does not produce $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction take effect; and

• $0.9 trillion in lower interest payments on the debt as a result of the deficit reduction achieved from not extending these current policies.

Total deficit reduction from utter Congressional failure? $7.1  trillion dollars over the next decade.

If you really believe the deficit is a problem for investors (and the Bond Markets sure don’t) then you need to find another boogieman. A huge swath of the federal debt is about to go away, courtesy of political dysfunction and committee failure.

See also:

• How we can succeed through supercommittee’s ‘failure’ (Washinton Post)

• The do-nothing plan: now worth $7.1 trillion (Washinton Post)

This post originally appeared at The Big Picture and is posted with permission.

10 Responses to "Is It Really the Debt?"

  1. steveroth   November 22, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Better question: Is it really the *government* debt?

    Private debt dwarfs it (two, three, or four to one), and because private debt issuers can't print money, it's *far* more subject to wild swings in quantity.