In other words, we will not pay, as we have “guaranteed” in the past, full payment of interest on our debt–at least to those classified as “recalcitrant.” Such a partial payment is classified as a “default.” In this case, it’s a willful default, since the full interest payment will be withheld in favor of a reduced payment.
Even the possibility of the U.S. intentionally defaulting on some of its debt interest payments is creating some uncertainly in foreign markets. This is alarming since according to Treasury, over $5.8 trillion of our debt is held abroad. So far, only about two dozen countries have signed FATCA agreements, indicating a willingness to cooperate with the IRS. And China, the largest foreign holder of our debt, is not among them.
James George Jatras, a former U.S. diplomat and U.S. Senate staffer, said recently regarding FATCA: “In the end, no one really knows how this will work, which is part of the problem. Foreign purchases of U.S. Treasury securities and the reliability of interest payments are essential to America’s financial stability. Even a slight market change in U.S. borrowing costs could have a disastrous impact on the deficit and our economy. Why play Russian roulette with the U.S. debt absent a big, identifiable, countervailing benefit?”
The likelihood is that foreign institutions and countries will be less inclined to purchase U.S. debt if they may be denied up to 30% of the interest due them. With our massive debt of nearly $18 trillion, we have bonds and notes maturing every month. What happens if previous buyers of our debt quit buying? For one thing, the cost of interest servicing that debt will rise–and it could be significant.
Two years ago, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the president’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission known as “Simpson-Bowles,” called the nation’s compound interest burden “one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the United States.” He said that “We’ll be spending over $1 trillion a year on interest by 2020. That’s $1 trillion we can’t spend to educate our kids or to replace our badly worn-out infrastructure.” And that was even without factoring in a significant increase in interest rates because of a diminished appetite for U.S. debt due to FATCA.
Our economic stability, and the strength of the dollar as the global reserve currency, is directly dependent on a stable bond market for our debt instruments. With the possibility of pending diminution of appetite for that debt, our economic stability as a country is at risk. Clearly, our massive debt and this poorly conceived and implemented legislation are posing a national security risk that could potentially affect all of us.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.