The Spectacle Blog

The Fiscal Tsunami Grows

By on 5.12.09 | 5:27PM

The red ink is truly frightening.  Uncle Sam's fiscal situation continues to deteriorate.  The deficit this year will run at least $1.8 trillion.  The latest increase in the expected deficit dwarfs the president's pitiful half percent budget "cut."  Reports Associated Press:

The government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion under new White House estimates.

Budget office figures released Monday would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink -- increasing it to more than four times last year's all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money.

The unprecedented deficit figures flow from the deep recession, the Wall Street bailout and the cost of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill -- as well as a seemingly embedded structural imbalance between what the government spends and what it takes in.

As the economy performs worse than expected, the deficit for the 2010 budget year beginning in October will worsen by $87 billion to $1.3 trillion, the White House says. The deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Just a few days ago, Obama touted an administration plan to cut $17 billion in wasteful or duplicative programs from the budget next year. The erosion in the deficit announced Monday is five times the size of those savings.

For the current year, the government would borrow 46 cents for every dollar it takes to run the government under the administration's plan. In 2010, it would borrow 35 cents for every dollar spent.

But even this estimate is far too low.  For instance, Fannie Mae continues to run up losses, and expects to need another $110 billion this year.  Freddie Mac has yet to report its latest figures.  Explains the Washington Post:

Fannie Mae reported yesterday that it lost $23.2 billion in the first three months of the year as mortgage defaults increasingly spread from risky loans to the far-larger portfolio of loans to borrowers who have been considered safe.

The massive loss prompts a $19 billion investment from the government to keep the firm solvent, on top of a $15 billion investment of taxpayer money earlier this year.

The sobering earnings report was a reminder of the far-reaching implications of the government's takeover in September of Fannie Mae and the smaller Freddie Mac. Losses have proved unrelenting; the firms' appetite for tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer aid hasn't subsided; and taxpayer money invested in the companies, analysts said, is probably lost forever because the prospects for repayment are slim.

But the government remains committed to keeping the companies afloat, because it is relying on them to help reverse the continuing slide in the housing market and keep mortgage rates low.

Even as the government bailout of banks appears to be leveling off, the federal rescue of Fannie and Freddie is rapidly growing more expensive. Fannie Mae said that the losses will continue through at least much of the year and that it "therefore will be required to obtain additional funding from the Treasury." Analysts are estimating that the company could need at least $110 billion.

Finally, there's the latest news on Social Security and Medicare, which, of course, is awful.  But the official statistics aren't the end of it.  Economist Lawrence Kotlikoff warns that Social Security's official projected unfunded liabilities may underestimate actual liabilities by almost one-fourth.  That means taxpayers will be stuck with a bill not just for trillions, but trillions and trillions.  The actual numbers are too terrible to behold and should make one weep.

But don't worry.  The president plans on cutting $17 billion.  If Congress is willing to go along with the cuts, that is.  Don't worry, be happy.

Send to Kindle

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article