Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel believes that other countries are likely to face dire consequences of the US $20 trillion national debt.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Other countries are likely to suffer from the consequences of the record US $20 trillion national debt than the United States itself, Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel told Sputnik on Tuesday.
The US national debt exceeded $20 trillion for the first time in its history on Friday when President Donald Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill that authorized temporarily raising the debt limit from $19.84 trillion by another $318 billion over the next three months.
The enormous figure was likely to have a serious impact on more vulnerable economies around the world, according to Ortel, who in 2007 exposed financial fraud at the US conglomerate General Electric.
“In a sense, US debt is not the dirtiest shirt in the Laundromat: Others will suffer far more before we may,” he said.
Ortel acknowledged that the $20 trillion debt remained a massive and enduring financial burden for the United States.
“In an absolute sense, $20 trillion in debt obligations is a monster burden that must be serviced out of tax revenues from individuals whose own wages remain under threat, and from corporations operating in fierce competition,” he said.
However, Ortel noted the United States was not alone in running up such enormous bills.
“In relative terms, few other large nations issue debt obligations that have high likelihood of being serviced without defaulting. There is a substantial amount of debt in Euroland that manages to charge investors interest (negative interest) for the privilege of using their money,” he said.
The huge debt was the consequence of massive erosion in financial values among the US public over the past 70 years, Ortel pointed out.
“What is more concerning than these high levels of government debt is that the propensity of the US population to borrow has changed markedly from 1945 forward,” he said.
This change had affected not just the private sector but the attitudes and policies of all public governments and institutions towards amassing more debt as well, Ortel explained.
“Governments (federal, state, and local) have changed their willingness to borrow, but all sectors have become addicted to borrowing,” he said.
The national debt that Trump had approved increasing was just the top of a massive iceberg of private and commercial debt as well, Ortel observed.
“Please bear in mind that these figures are for all households — rich households tend to borrow less, so when you think about how much debt the bottom 80 percent (by income) of households has, relative to their spending and earning levels, you get really concerned,” he said.
The current generation of Americans appeared not to care that their private and public debt levels were breaking historic records, but the situation was alarming and getting worse, Ortel warned.
“Americans seem to believe that history is irrelevant,” he said, adding that residents in other “developed” economies with profligate governments, and debt-addicted sectors in Europe and in North Asia, also hold such view.
In the short term, investors around the world might respond to an international financial panic or other crisis by pouring their funds into the United States, intensifying the problem for other countries, Ortel predicted.
“I believe the most likely scenario in a renewed global crisis is that US interest rates will drop further, as investors flee debt issued by smaller nations with smaller internal markets, and exchange that debt for US debt,” he said.
However, keeping prime interest rates at virtually zero levels to avoid financial hardship was only a stopgap solution and could not be continued indefinitely, Ortel cautioned.
“I do not believe Central Banks can forever ‘manage’ interest rates lower without encountering a crisis of confidence one way or another when a large and interconnected borrowing nation may need to defend the value of its currency and finally push interest rates up,” he said.
The US government and Congress needed to anticipate future financial crises and act now to strengthen its own central bank, Ortel advised.
Also, “The United States must change its ‘business model’ for government: We spend way too much for structural reasons on non-military spending that is unchecked (as yet) and for which no true accounting is ever actually made,” Ortel concluded.
The US Senate approved the higher borrowing limit by 80 votes to 17 last Thursday and the House of Representatives then also passed it by 316 votes to 90. Both votes would have overrode any veto by Trump had he tried to block the legislation.