Will a failure to raise the US debt ceiling force a default?

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  • #51
mheslep
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Keep in mind that the DOD regards China's actual defense expenditures to be about double the published figures,
Ok, US DoD budget is 4.5X greater than China's using the US DoD estimate.
and that China (unlike the United States) has relatively tiny operational and maintenance costs.
A large chunk of American payments go to personnel costs, followed by procurement and maintenance costs on existing equipment.
Then the Chinese will suffer, relative to the US, in operational and maintenance quality. Yes the US is spending substantially on ongoing wars, but one of the inevitable consequences is that the US now has by far the most combat experience in the world. Also, the US has a volunteer, highly professional military while the Chinese conscript troops. A volunteer military is more expensive per pair of boots to run, but much, much more motivated and effective.
The leftover goes to development and procurement of new weapons systems, and isn't all that much. From Wikipedia:

Components Funding Change, 2009 to 2010
Operations and maintenance $283.3 billion +4.2%
Military Personnel $154.2 billion +5.0%
Procurement $140.1 billion −1.8%
Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation $79.1 billion +1.3%

Military Construction $23.9 billion +19.0%
Family Housing $3.1 billion −20.2%
Total Spending $685.1 billion +3.0%

Put that into perspective vis a vis China's true budgetary outlays of approximately $160B, a significantly larger chunk of which goes to developing and procuring new weapons systems relative to the United States, and you're suddenly looking at a better relative picture. Again according to the DOD, China is spending about 50% of its budget on procurement, and 15% on R&D - much higher ratios than in the United States.

Cut some of those operational and personnel costs, I agree, but these are much harder to go after politically than, say, a new fighter plane.
Why? Why can't the US cut one or two air craft carriers?

We are in real danger of losing our generational lead on the Chinese.
I'm familiar with earlier periods in US history where the US military was gutted of resources and ignored - after WWI, again after WWII - lessons to be learned from that history. But the current situation is not comparable in the slightest to those eras. So if and when the Chinese start spending twice what the US spends, call me in thirty years.

We may outnumber them in number of units and quality of operators,
Yes! US: 12 nuclear aircraft carriers, with half a century of experience refining the sophisticated ballet of naval aviation. China: 0. Then there's the military spending (and ongoing cooperation) of US allies in the Pacific - Australia, Japan, S. Korea, etc. Chinese allies: 1 (NK). BTW, if anyone needs to be especially worried about China militarily it is those same Pacific countries, not the US.

but as a matter of international prestige, the damage is in Chinese technical parity regardless of practical parity. The loss in clout to the Chinese will damage our ability to get what we want on the international stage (Iran, N. Korea, and Taiwan, for starters); this is the nature of real politik.
Well here you've left the realm of quantifiable military advantage and moved into political hand waving. In what sense does the US restrain China politically now? What prestige is granted by a $14 trillion debt?

On to entitlement spending cuts:
[...]
The point being, the Act itself doesn't cut much of anything. Congress just instructed CBO to consider separate government cutting action when scoring the budgetary impacts of ACA.
Agreed, exactly so.
Repeal the Act, and implement the cuts anyway (where reasonable and prudent), and we've got the savings minus the cost of this massive new entitlement.
Agreed, that was my point above [highlights mine]. Even if ACA didn't make the cuts, by writing down intentions it provides political cover to carry them out. And above I was specifically drawing attention to the means testing of Medicare beneficiarys in ACA, not the doc fix.
 
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  • #52
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Ok, US DoD budget is 4.5X greater than China's.
That.

Actually.

Says.

Loads.

Huge.

Loads.

Scratching my head, too.
 
  • #54
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That. Actually. Says. Loads.
I'd be interested in what you think that says. The US has 1.4M people in its military. China has 2.2M. (I'm not counting the paramilitary arms of the PLA). So the first conclusion I would draw is that "the US pays its soldiers 7x as much".
 
  • #55
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I'd be interested in what you think that says. The US has 1.4M people in its military. China has 2.2M. (I'm not counting the paramilitary arms of the PLA). So the first conclusion I would draw is that "the US pays its soldiers 7x as much".
Isn't that in line with other wage comparisons US vs China?
 
  • #56
talk2glenn
I'd be interested in what you think that says. The US has 1.4M people in its military. China has 2.2M. (I'm not counting the paramilitary arms of the PLA). So the first conclusion I would draw is that "the US pays its soldiers 7x as much".
I'm curious too. It's like my point about the differences in how the money is spent in the US relative to China sailed completely over their heads.

Let me help by being more explicit.

China is spending approximately $80B per year on procurement, using DOD estimates. This means the United States is only spending 1.75x as much as the Chinese on buying new weapons. Given the current growth rates in Chinese military spending, relative to the pretty constant spending rates in the US on procurement, they will catch up to us in procurement spending in about 5 years. This assumes no cuts in procurement spending.

Likewise China is spending approximately $24B on research and development of new weapons, again using the DOD estimates. This is approximately 1/3 the published R&D budget of the United States, granted, but still much less than 4.5x and much much less than 7x.
 
  • #57
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I'm curious too. It's like my point about the differences in how the money is spent in the US relative to China sailed completely over their heads.

Let me help by being more explicit.

China is spending approximately $80B per year on procurement, using DOD estimates. This means the United States is only spending 1.75x as much as the Chinese on buying new weapons. Given the current growth rates in Chinese military spending, relative to the pretty constant spending rates in the US on procurement, they will catch up to us in procurement spending in about 5 years. This assumes no cuts in procurement spending.

Likewise China is spending approximately $24B on research and development of new weapons, again using the DOD estimates. This is approximately 1/3 the published R&D budget of the United States, granted, but still much less than 4.5x and much much less than 7x.
In the spirit of the OP - perhaps we (US) should default on debt to China - now - while we have the military advantage? On the other hand, the corporate investors in China would have to take some very large write-downs.
 
  • #58
AlephZero
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I'd be interested in what you think that says. The US has 1.4M people in its military. China has 2.2M. (I'm not counting the paramilitary arms of the PLA). So the first conclusion I would draw is that "the US pays its soldiers 7x as much".
The comparative numbers don't mean much. China could have 22M or 220M people in its military within a week if it felt the need, because it doesn't have to waste time pretending to be a democracy.

Sure, they wouldn't be very well armed, but neither are the Taliban, and the high tech US war machine doesn't seem to be making much progress against them.

In a "boots on ground" conflict, China wins. They have more boots than anybody else.
 
  • #59
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The comparative numbers don't mean much. China could have 22M or 220M people in its military within a week if it felt the need, because it doesn't have to waste time pretending to be a democracy.

Sure, they wouldn't be very well armed, but neither are the Taliban, and the high tech US war machine doesn't seem to be making much progress against them.

In a "boots on ground" conflict, China wins. They have more boots than anybody else.
To stay on topic - this also emphasizes the potential of the Chinese manufacturing base - they have unused capacity. While the US further saddles itself with entitlement spending and deficits - China expands and strengthens economically.
 
  • #60
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To stay on topic - this also emphasizes the potential of the Chinese manufacturing base - they have unused capacity. While the US further saddles itself with entitlement spending and deficits - China expands and strengthens economically.
Smart people! I might have to take up Mandarin...
 
  • #61
mheslep
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This might be a pattern for state governments to follow soon.

New York State Takes Control of Nassau’s Finances
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — A state oversight board has seized control of Nassau County’s finances, saying the wealthy and heavily taxed county had nonetheless failed to balance its $2.6 billion budget despite months of increasingly ominous warnings.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassau_County,_New_York" [Broken] is the 10th richest county in the US, 1st in New York state. Apparently the recently elected county executive attempted to renegotiate contracts with the unions, but they refused. Adios to one and all now.
 
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  • #62
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The morning after...
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/26/national/main7285697.shtml

"(CBS/AP) Washington - The day after the federal deficit was a central theme to both President Obama's State of the Union address as well as the GOP's official response to it, the Congressional Budget Office released new figures underscoring the urgency of the issue.

A new estimate predicts the federal budget deficit will hit almost $1.5 trillion this year, a new record. "
 
  • #63
talk2glenn
So the United States could close the Pentagon and disband the entire armed forces tomorrow, and the Federal deficit would be reduced by.... about 45%. But military spending is driving the deficits, right?

For that matter, the United States could close the entire federal government, and still be running a deficit.

The problem is entitlement programs.
 
  • #64
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Would you ever consider it a long term strategy to run your household on 40% borrowed funds - knowing that interest rates are being suppressed artificially?

My bold
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41272983/ns/politics-more_politics/

"The eye-popping numbers mean the government will continue to borrow 40 cents for every dollar it spends.

The new Congressional Budget Office estimates will add fuel to a raging debate over cutting spending and looming legislation that's required to allow the government to borrow more money as the national debt nears the $14.3 trillion cap set by law. Republicans controlling the House say there's no way they'll raise the limit without significant cuts in spending, starting with a government funding bill that will advance next month. "
 
  • #65
Al68
For that matter, the United States could close the entire federal government, and still be running a deficit.

The problem is entitlement programs.
They wouldn't be if the agencies that write and send the entitlement checks were closed. "Mandatory" or not, unlike a failure to make interest payments on the debt, failure to pay entitlements would reduce the deficit.

If we stay on the track we're on, our grandchildren will have no choice but to refuse to feed the beast, and the federal government will have to declare bankruptcy and default on most or all of its debt. And I consider the consequence that the federal government would no longer be trusted enough to be able to borrow an advantage, not a disadvantage.

For far too long, too many of us have bought into the silly notion that private individuals are under some moral obligation to fund the promises of power hungry politicians. We are not. We are not. We are not.

And what's really crazy about entitlement programs like Social Security is that Democrats refuse to even consider phasing it out as we know it. Coercing people into a ponzi scheme against their will isn't some short term plan pending a permanent solution, it is their permanent solution for retirement security. They can make semantic objections to the phrase "coercing people into a ponzi scheme against their will" all they want, but it doesn't change the fact that that's exactly the long term solution they insist on.
 
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  • #66
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They wouldn't be if the agencies that write and send the entitlement checks were closed. "Mandatory" or not, unlike a failure to make interest payments on the debt, failure to pay entitlements would reduce the deficit.

If we stay on the track we're on, our grandchildren will have no choice but to refuse to feed the beast, and the federal government will have to declare bankruptcy and default on most or all of its debt. And I consider the consequence that the federal government would no longer be trusted enough to be able to borrow an advantage, not a disadvantage.

For far too long, too many of us have bought into the silly notion that private individuals are under some moral obligation to fund the promises of power hungry politicians. We are not. We are not. We are not.

And what's really crazy about entitlement programs like Social Security is that Democrats refuse to even consider phasing it out as we know it. Coercing people into a ponzi scheme against their will isn't some short term plan pending a permanent solution, it is their permanent solution for retirement security. They can make semantic objections to the phrase "coercing people into a ponzi scheme against their will" all they want, but it doesn't change the fact that that's exactly the long term solution they insist on.
We can label this post OPINION - my opinion - please.

I have to give the politicians more credit than you Al. I'll cite the recent expansion of Medicaid and the passing of "healthcare reform". These actions cemented the bonds between Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Medical industry, and the Government.

The expansion of Medicaid is an unfunded mandate - a burden on the states. The Federal Government is also responsible for a portion. However, the states can't print money and won't be able to chase an increasing interest rate. When the states begin to default - the Federal Government will either have to bail them out or oversee their restructuring. This might lead to a further transfer of power away from the states to the (ever-expanding) Federal Government.

Even if the debt ceiling is not increased - the Medicaid expansion will continue at the state level - it's like a balloon payment - and like every other bubble - it will pop.

Again, IMO.
 
  • #67
PhilKravitz
The IMF says that in order to close the gap between projected future liabilities and projected future revenues a 14% of GDP tax increase would be needed. That is federal tax goes from 14.9% of GDP (current level) to 28.9% of GDP. So. I expect tax increases and no default.
 
  • #68
Al68
The IMF says that in order to close the gap between projected future liabilities and projected future revenues a 14% of GDP tax increase would be needed. That is federal tax goes from 14.9% of GDP (current level) to 28.9% of GDP. So. I expect tax increases and no default.
The problem is that no realistic tax policy would achieve that. That kind of (effective) federal tax rate is not only far above the point of diminishing returns, it would drastically reduce GDP, making the government's problem worse, not better. And that's not even considering the damage to the rest of the economy, the part of it that isn't government. The part of it that not only pays government's bills but has its own bills that some of us think are rather important. The part of it that constitutes the overwhelming majority of the country.
 
  • #69
mheslep
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The IMF says that in order to close the gap between projected future liabilities and projected future revenues a 14% of GDP tax increase would be needed. That is federal tax goes from 14.9% of GDP (current level) to 28.9% of GDP. So. I expect tax increases and no default.
The US government has failed to collect more than 20% of GDP in revenues in modern times, and not more than 19% for more than very short periods. That includes times when income tax rates on the top bracket were more than 90%. Taxes will not, can not fix this federal deficit problem.

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  • #70
PhilKravitz
Taxes will not, can not fix this federal deficit problem.
Are you suggesting a 14% of GDP cut in federal spending? Roughly half of their spending.
 
  • #71
mheslep
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Are you suggesting a 14% of GDP cut in federal spending? Roughly half of their spending.
At 43% cut. Yes, over the two year term of this Congress. The time for the OMG! calls was a couple years go when the US was buying car companies and raising discretionary budgets by 20%. Too late now.
 
  • #72
PhilKravitz
At 43% cut. Yes, over the two year term of this Congress. The time for the OMG! calls was a couple years go when the US was buying car companies and raising discretionary budgets by 20%. Too late now.
Hurray!!! I agree completely.
 
  • #73
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The US government has failed to collect more than 20% of GDP in revenues in modern times...
While managing to spend quite a bit more of unaccounted funds.
 
  • #74
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The problem is that no realistic tax policy would achieve that. That kind of (effective) federal tax rate is not only far above the point of diminishing returns, it would drastically reduce GDP, making the government's problem worse, not better.
Al, Al, Al. You need to start reading more left-leaning blogs. The have the solution: tax last year's income - i.e. a wealth tax.
 

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