Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Bankrupt Nation?

I didn't intend for this to be a purely negative blog, but since I'm on the subject of the collapsing American Empire, I couldn't resist comment on the recent article by Robert Freeman titled The Frightening Future in the Market Meltdown . He makes the following points:
  • When Ronald Reagan took office, in 1981, the cumulative national debt stood at $1 trillion. Today, it approaches $9 trillion
  • In 1975, personal household debt amounted to only 61% of disposable income. Today it stands at over 135%.
  • Consumers have expanded mortgage debt by over $11 trillion since 2001, using mortgage equity withdrawals to purchase life styles far beyond what their incomes alone could support.
  • The annual trade deficit that stood at $377 billion in 2000 now exceeds $800 billion.
  • Over the past six years, this trade deficit has added a cumulative $3 trillion of debt to the economy.
  • Adding up the national debt, consumer debt, and trade debt gives an increase in debt over the past six years comes to $17 trillion. (Note that any economy that borrows $17 trillion in six years can be made to look good, at least for a while. The problem is when the bills come due. )
  • Lawrence Kotlikoff, writing for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revealed last year that the U.S. actually faces $65 trillion in “unfunded liabilities,” debts it has committed to pay but for which there is no identified source of funding.

Here's a definition (from Wikipedia)

Bankruptcy - a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organizations to pay their creditors.

It's hard to see how the U.S. can pay these obligations under any reasonable scenario. We currently have to borrow $2.5 billion every day from the rest of the world just to keep afloat, sinking further and further into debt with no improvement in the situation in sight. Based on the above data, we appear to be, by any reasonable definition, a bankrupt nation waiting for the bills to come due. Where is this argument wrong?

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