The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Michael Maiello's picture

    Wall Street And The Debt

    Looks like John Boehner has been paying visits to Wall Street bankers lately, trying to figure out how close the Congress can bring the government to hitting the debt ceiling before they all freak out and sell America to China.  Or, more likely, freak out and stop donating money to Republican candidates for national office.

    The big banks probably have some contingency plans to deal with a U.S. default but it's still going to be a problem as Treasury securities represent a good portfion of their assets.  More likely, since all corporate borrowers have to pay more interest than the federal government, they fear the spike in corporate interest rates that would result from a U.S. default.

    What's silly here is that the U.S. can never be forced into default.  It can only default by choice.  The U.S. can always print the dollars it needs to pay its bills.  For it to default is akin to you losing your house not because you can't afford the mortgage payment but because you don't like licking stamps.

    My Daily column today is about how our fixation of the debt is totally backwards.  We should be fixated on jobs, wages and growth instead.  The thrust of my argument is that so long as corporate borrowers have access to the capital markets (and they do) and that so long as interest rates remain reasonable (they're super low) that Wall Street won't care so much about the level of debt as it will our willingness to pay.  This argument about the debt ceiling speaks right to the latter.

    Beyond that, and more important, I think, is the fact that paying down the debt won't create a single American job.  Never mind the jobs it could potentially cost -- even if they balance the budget with no public workers or contractors losing their jobs it won't do a thing to spur private sector job creation.  Growth is more important than debt.



    Looks like john Boehner has been paying visits to Wall Street bankers lately, trying to figure out how close the congress can bring the government to hitting the debt ceiling before they all freak out and sell American to China.  Or, more likely, freak out and stop donating money to Republican candidates for national office.

    Which should be entertaining indeed. [Umm...where's my popcorn and soda. Smile]

    I don't think Wall Street or the Chamber of Commerce big boys more generally would really mind a temporary debt ceiling crisis, if it means

    1. Market volatility - Wall Street LOVES volatility of any kind

    2. privatization/cuts in Medicare and SocSec. Privatization and cuts pretty much amount to the same thing, since people will seek supplemental retirement insurance on the private market if there are cuts.

    Obama and the democrats lost this one in the Fall when they decided to leave the debt ceiling negotiating until later when the Republicans would have the upper hand:

    What's important to understand about the debt-ceiling vote -- where Democrats and Republicans will either strike a deal to increase the Treasury's borrowing cap or the country will collapse into default -- is that it's not like Democrats have simply forgotten about it. It's not that they haven't realized that they could tie it to the tax cuts, which Republicans want and which will add $900 billion to the debt. It's that they simply don't want to. “Let the Republicans have some buy-in on the debt. They’re going to have a majority in the House,” said Harry Reid. “I don’t think it should be when we have a heavily Democratic Senate, heavily Democratic House and a Democratic president.”

    The theory goes something like this: Republicans will demand sharp spending cuts in return for lifting the debt ceiling. Let them. "Boehner et al have had the luxury of proposing all sorts of ideas that bear no relation to reality," says Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman. "Next year, they’ll have to lay it all out. No more magic asterisks, no more 'we’ll get back to you.’ "

    So they wanted to give the Republicans the power to determine the long-term budget, and then make them bear the political costs of the radical cuts they would propose.

    Who needs enemies with a democratic party like that? When they have the power to stop harmful cuts, ... they prefer to harm the country destroying the crowning glory of the Great Society and the New Deal ... in the hopes of subsequent electoral gains.

    Excuse my language, but that's fucking retarded in my book.

    I don't think they're retarded.  They have no interest in taxing the top 1% because that's their neighborhood.  They showed as much zeal for solving our debt problems by reigning in US healthcare costs, due to all those campaign contributions flooding in from the healthcare, and FIRE sectors.  No, they're not retarded.  They're acting in their own self interest.  They also get to write laws.  Think about that.  There's a structural issue underlying the dearth of change, and consequent absence of hope here, that makes the concept of "catch-22" seem quaint.  Like one of R.D.Laing's famus "knots".  This may be the true Gordian knot of our age.

    You're opening statement reminded me of 13 Bankers. Both Jefferson and Jackson were opposed to a central bank. In fact, Jackson had a run in with the 2nd Bank of the United States. The CEO of the bank was giving large campaign contributions to members of Congress to ensure they passed legislation he favored while willing to override any threat of a Presidential veto. So the Bank was steering the legislation it desired while the Congress critters enjoyed the spoils of their vice and Jackson was suppose to suck hind tit.

    AND YES !!!

    It's really all about jobs. I'm surprised no city, county or state person of little or major political importance hasn't realized their financial plight of no revenue is the result of the high unemployment rate, substandard wages for those still working and meager benefit plans that all rob the economy of the dollars necessary for a civil government to survive. If people are productive, they're earning a salary which is taxed by the federal government that pays off the deficit...a real no brainer unless you're a GOPer. And the more people paying taxes means the deficit is paid off sooner. At the same time,  the more people working means a slight increase in the nominal tax rate will yield billions more revenue and it won't hurt anyone's pocketbook or wallet. Very simple math. The more the tax load is distributed over a larger, working population the lower the tax burden becomes for all. Whereas a smaller working population means those who are working must pay into a higher tax bracket to support those who are unable to contribute. One would think GOPer's would be all for full employment with excellent corporate benefits and self sufficient retirement plans that don't rely upon government largess - like social security and medicare. Opps! There I go daydreaming again.

    It's all about jobs and forcing corporate america to divert a substantial portion of their profits back into their work forces by using the old fashion method of tax breaks as a reward, provide the necessary education so Americans, not foreigners, are their main assets they rely on. Pool their resources to create a public option of their own with the major insurers for health care and so forth. If done right, Congress could provide corporate america with the right incentive to take the matter in their own hands and everyone's a winner.

    Except the shareholder, of course. They shouldn't be a reward for greed.


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