Zum aktuellen US-Haushaltsstreit – 23

Einen weiteren recht ausführlichen Artikel von Brad Plumer vom 4.10.2013 mit dem ähnlich lautenden Titel “Absolutely everything you need to know about the debt ceiling” findet man ebenfalls im “Wonkblog” der “Washington Post“.

In diesem Artikel erfahren wir unter anderem:

“The federal government is shut down. But there’s more mayhem to come: Congress still has to deal with the debt ceiling. If lawmakers don’t vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit by October 17, the U.S. government won’t have enough money to pay its bills.

A debt-ceiling breach could be the most serious crisis yet. The U.S. Treasury Department says that failure to raise the borrowing limit could trigger a default, which would lead to “a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.” (…)

What is the debt ceiling?

The current debt limit is $16.699 trillion. The Treasury Department can borrow that much and no more, unless Congress votes to raise the ceiling. (…)

So when will the government reach its $16.699 trillion borrowing limit?

Technically, we’ve already reached the limit! But the government won’t actually run out of money to pay its bills until some time after Oct. 17.

The U.S. government hit the $16.699 trillion borrowing limit back on May 19. Since then, the Treasury Department has taken a slew of “extraordinary measures” — such as tapping exchange-rate funds — to raise an extra $303 billion and ensure the government has enough cash to meet all its obligations, from paying bondholders to Social Security checks.

By Oct. 17, however, the Treasury Department will run out of “extraordinary measures.” The government will no longer have enough cash on hand to meet all of its coming financial obligations, and it won’t be able to borrow or scrounge up any more money.

“We estimate that, at [Oct. 17], Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country’s commitments,” said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a recent letter to Congress. “This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion.” (…).

So what happens when the government doesn’t have money to pay its bills?

The most straightforward scenario is that the government’s computer systems would keep making payments until its checks started bouncing. And its hard to predict in advance who would get stiffed.

Each and every day, computers at the Treasury Department receive more than 2 million invoices from various agencies. The Department of Labor might say, for example, that it owes a contractor $1 million to fix up a building in Denver. The Treasury computers make sure the figures are correct and then authorize the payment. This is all done automatically, dozens of times per second.

According to the Treasury Department’s inspector general, the computers are designed to “make each payment in the order it comes due.” So if the money isn’t there, the defaults could be random. Maybe a payment to a defense contractor comes up short. Maybe a Social Security check bounces. Maybe an interest payment to bondholders fails. No one knows. (…)

What would be the economic consequences of breaching the debt ceiling?

Nothing good. A prolonged breach could result in a massive dose of fiscal austerity, putting a dent in economic growth. And a default on the debt would almost certainly roil financial markets.

If Congress refused to lift the debt ceiling, then the federal government could only spend as much as it takes in taxes. Overall outlays would drop by 32 percent, or $106 billion over the coming month — a much sharper drop than, say, the sequestration budget cuts or the furloughs caused by the government shutdown.

The financial response is harder to forecast. The Treasury Department certainly thinks the prospect of missing a debt payment could be ruinous: “Credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”

Other analysts agree. Take Fedwire, the central clearing system that banks in America use to move cash, bonds, and other financial assets around. This system shuffles around trillions of dollars a day. But as a recent note by RBC Capital Markets notes, Fedwire isn’t set up to handle defaulted securities. The entire system would freeze. “Let us be perfectly clear,” the note says, “crossing the debt ceiling would be catastrophic.”

(For more on other potential financial consequences of a default, most of them bad, see this post by Kevin Roose.) (…).

Fine. How much does the debt ceiling need to be raised by to avoid chaos?

The Bipartisan Policy Center report estimates that Congress would need to raise the debt ceiling by around $1.1 trillion to allow the government to meet all of its obligations through the end of 2014. (…).

So why has the debt ceiling been so contentious lately?

It all started back in 2010. Republicans had just won a huge victory in the midterms, and Congress agreed during the lame-duck session to extend $850 billion worth of tax cuts. But Democrats, who still ran Congress at the time, didn’t include a debt-ceiling hike in the deal. Harry Reid’s attitude at the time was, “Let the Republicans have some buy-in on the debt. They’re going to have a majority in the House.”

So, in 2011, when it came time to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans refused to do so unless they received significant spending cuts in return. That fight dragged on for much of the summer of 2011, and the financial markets got the jitters.

Eventually, Republicans and the White House struck a deal. Congress would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion (to its current level). At the same time, lawmakers would enact $2.1 trillion in deficit reduction — a deal that eventually lead to the sequestration budget cuts.

What do Republicans want this time around?

It’s still not entirely clear. The original bill from House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling included a whole batch of policy proposals, from a delay of Obamacare to curbing the Environmental Protection Agency to fast-tracking the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats rejected all of those conditions and asked for a “clean” bill that solely hikes the debt ceiling.

Lately, senior Republicans have suggested that, instead, they might consent to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling in exchange for a broad agreement to overhaul entitlements.

Yet at the same time, aides to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) have told reporters that they won’t let the country default. If worst comes to worst, they say, Boehner will pull together Democratic votes to pass a “clean” debt-ceiling hike. So we’ll see what happens”.

Hoffen wir also, dass dieser US-Haushaltsstreit bald ein produktives und vernünftiges Ende findet. Jeder Tag dieses “goverment shutdowns” kostet die USA eine Menge Geld und schmälert letztlich das in diesem Quartal in den USA zu erwartende Wirtschaftswachstum.

Und sollte tatsächlich bis zum 17.10.2103 keine Lösung für die derzeitige “US debt ceiling debate” gefunden worden sein, könnten die Folgen nicht nur für die USA, sondern auch für die weltweite Finanz- und Wirtschafts-Architektur dramatisch sein.

Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag Zum aktuellen US-Haushaltsstreit – 23 Klaus Gauger steht unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung-NichtKommerziell-KeineBearbeitung 3.0 Unported Lizenz

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