If we could owe this debt to ourselves instead of others, we’d be rich from all the compounded interest we’d be paying back… — kavips

There is nothing that a strong dose of morphine can’t cure…. at least to the person receiving the injection ….. Damn… No legs…. Ahhh… no problem…..

Obviously the long term plan is the one we need to tackle first, so short term fixes like the one above, are seen as steps in the right direction, and not random neural contractions found during a soon-to-be-eaten chicken’s last minute.

Long term:

1) We need to spend within our means, both personally and as a nation.

2) We need to pay down the deficit, reducing our national interest payment.

3) We need to control our spending on entitlements: Social Security and Medicare.

4) We need a better trade balance with our trading partners.

5) We will need more cash in order to do all of the above.

We have been lulled into believing that we can spend money that we do not have… Hell we’ve been doing it for 8 years now… We did it for twelve years before that, starting with Ronald Reagan. And it was working fine up until late September…. Why can’t we keep on the same path?

As we have now found out, there is a small problem with taking out loans…. It’s called paying them back. To pay back a loan, some of the money that you are currently making needs to go back to those who invested in you at the beginning. Wait you say… why can’t we get more people to invest in us, and use that money to pay off those who invested in us earlier?

It’s been tried. And someone Madoff (made off) with a lot of other people’s money by doing just that. But eventually somewhere along the line, one cannot find enough new people to pay off the old, and crash, the system collapses.. Sort of like our Social Security system today ….

So if we have a loan, we have to pay it back?

Yes, that seems to work best. Although often loans can be forgiven after it becomes clear that they will never be repaid, and that further attempts to repay will collapse the entire pyramid where everyone loses everything… In those cases, sharing the risk by writing off some of the debts, allows one to begin making money again at some point in the future…..

But choosing to default, or not paying off the loans, also makes it impossible to get loan money later when you really need it.

So how much do we owe?

That depends on how you want to count it.. When you get a loan, there is a price tag attached that is called interest. One pays back the loan plus the interest to the party that fronted the money. After all, that is why people lend money in the first place… to make more of it… So if you bought a loan for $100,000 dollars, you could pay $100,000 the next day and be done.. That is one way of counting how much you owe. But, over time, that house you are buying is going to cost you 2.15 times its amount, because of compounded interest. So saying that you owe $215,000 is also correct….

The current U.S. obligations as of September 30th..( before any of the bailouts were passed by Congress) stood at 56 Trillion dollars. Every man, women, and child now owes $184,000 dollars. If we pay that back over 10 years, that is $18,400 per year of our income going just to the Federal government. Which means that if your family is struggling on $60,000 a year right now, that you had better start planning on how you can survive on $41,600 over the next ten years.

It may not be as bad as it seems. If free health-care becomes a reality, a yearly out of pocket savings of $7800 is a step in the right direction. Now we have just $10,600 to make up…. And if we cancel further investments into our 401 K for ten years, depending on how much you put in yearly, that accounts for somewhere between another $2000 to $10,000 dollars of which you will soon be out of pocket.. One had better hope that Social Security is still there for you when you retire…..

This is not something we have options on. This is a reality that must happen. Of course we can choose to pay it out over a longer time frame and survive with less money leaving our household per year, but over the span of a long time, we will ultimately pay a lot more… It seems better to knock out the debt, learn to live within our means, and once that debt is paid, prosper again after hopefully having learned our lesson over not paying as you go…..

That means that any new money pouring in from the “tax to the max”, must all be designated toward paying down the debt, and not be split off to other much needed projects. That is a hard choice to say no to… but once all debt is gone, less money will be required to be collected to fund those projects on a pay as you go basis. Our tax burden will be much less, giving us more money to spend, yet we will have ample money to fund the projects being built. The economy will grow in that scenario.

Of course this $184,000 is a shock figure designed to wake America up with a dose of reality. A bulk of the repayment will be paid back in the form of corporate taxes… starting as high as 50% and climbing perhaps to 90%. But the American consumer eventually also pays for those in the higher cost of each item he buys, since that payment will be embedded in the price he pays at the cash register.

The corporate rates mentioned above, were the same levels applied to corporate incomes after WWII, which continued and were not relaxed until under John F Kennedy’s administration. Over this time frame, corporations will have to settle for just being in business. After all,… that is what most small businesses do; they are grateful each day they open their doors. There is going to be a new reality that permeates the American corporate business world.

The essence of our nation’s problem is that we have lived off a credit card; one that will be paid by our children and grandchildren. And it has not just been our government that has done so.. Private debt, corporate debt, as well as government debt have all elevated our spending beyond where it should naturally be. This has been going on for so long that most investors thought that this debt/GDP ratio could continue rising indefinitely without ever overwhelming the economy and corporate earnings. In fact, the way it kept growing, we also started wondering if this could also go on forever. The total debt in round numbers is almost $52 trillion. This was not much changed this year due to the credit freeze, but rose $4.3 trillion in 2007, which was over 5 times the rise in GDP. The composition of the debt is $25 trillion in Corporate debt-both financial and non financial, $14 trillion in Household debt, and $13 trillion of Government debt-Federal and State & Local) and the GDP is $14.4 trillion. These debt composition numbers are rough estimates but all would agree that we currently owe 3.6 times our entire GDP….

This debt cycle really started in the early 1980’s when the U.S. savings rate peaked at over 10% and continued downward until this year when it troughed at a negative savings rate. People once again spent everything they made and then some last year, pushing the U.S. personal savings rate to the lowest level since the Great Depression more than seven decades ago.

As anyone who has been on the wrong side of debt can tell you, once the savings rate goes negative, it becomes a lot harder on the next round to change it. For then we have to pay charges on that amount which we spent beyond our means… So not only do we have to cut back to live within our means, but we need to further cut back in order to live within our means AND pay back those pesky charges…..

Under compounded interest any wait to pay back the cost is expensive; sooner is better than later. If we borrow a dollar and are charged with 3% interest, we pay back that dollar and the three cents of interest we owe… If we wait one year and are charged 3% on the dollar-and-three-cents we owed but did not pay back, we now owe a dollar and six cents. That may not sound like much, but when it comes to big numbers, that 3% on our national debt of 10.6 Trillion, becomes $318 billion dollars. One chuckles when Republicans find themselves up in arms over bailouts costing these amounts, but yet when the same figure is just interest, it is just considered the price we pay for living “la-de-da” beyond our means… At 3%, want to know how much interest we will pay on just that 3% interest itself, if we skip a year? $9.8 billion just to pay the interest, on the interest, that we are too broke to pay… “Deficits don’t matter” said Dick Cheney. When no one has money… where do we find that additional $9.8 billion to cough up?

But debt can be eradicated. Here is proof from a fellow posting his strategy.. It is a personal story to be sure, but it shows the proper mental attitude that must be created if one is about to embark on changing his lifestyle for the better….

Just the numbers of consumer debt are startling…. U.S. Household debt soared from 4.2 Trillion in 1990 (the first Bush president) to $13 trillion in 2008. During this period, the average American household dramatically increased its home mortgage debt, from almost $2.5 trillion in 1990 to nearly $10.5 trillion today. Similarly, consumer “revolving” or credit card debt quadrupled from $239 billion (B) to about $950B today. Moreover, the growth of U.S. credit card debt is substantially under-reported by the official U.S. Federal Reserve statistics, due to the tremendous volume of mortgage refinancings that were transacted between 2001 and 2005. At least $350B in consumer credit card debt was paid off through mortgage refinancings, home equity loans, and cash proceeds from the sale of real estate over this five- year period. This is consistent with the findings of Alan Greenspan and James Kennedy, who report that equity extraction was used to repay an average of about $50 billion of mortgage consumer debt between 1991 to 2005, about 3% of the outstanding balance of that debt at the beginning of the year.” Significantly, it averaged only $25.2B per year prior to 2001 (link to Manning’s work)

So how do we responsibly pay down our national consumer debt? Judging from the data provided above, it cannot be done. But a reasonable approach would be to isolate consumer debt into three categories: a) Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; b) substantial debt relief in the range of 60 to 80 percent; and c) repayment of the full balance over a 5 year credit management plan. The first category (a) is for those right on the edge; we know bankruptcy is inevitable, so we get it done and over so that they can start their ten years of rebuilding their credit as soon as possible. The second category (b), is a win win for both lenders and debtors. Just enough of their debt is forgiven allowing them to be debt free in 3 years.. The third category (c) is solvent enough to pay all their debts over a 5 year period on a managed plan. As is done with any bankruptcy, applicants for these programs are mean tested to determine into which category they fall … We can dream that all debts may someday be repaid. That is unrealistic. A practical approach moves forward, determining which debts are solvent and which are not, expeditiously processing those that are not, and in just a short time, all debt is secured and we know what our economy has to work with. No more surprises.

You can determine how your family finances can be resolved by using this calculator provided by the same Manning mentioned above.. I recommend that if you have unsecured debt, you play around with the credit card repayment section, seeing the differences that occur if you contributed your coffee fund, you movie allowance, your HBO bill towards paying down your credit card debt. Those little totals often taken for granted, can make years of a difference in pulling yourself out of debt.

We often hear pontificating towards our governments, local, state, and federal, end with the admonishment that since American consumers live within their means…. why can’t the federal government do so as well…

That is not exactly true. We do a lousy job compared to our parents.

They and their parents bought savings bonds… Which brings us back full circle to our best idea of paying down our national debt… What if a percentage of everyone’s pay check went toward buying themselves savings bonds. Unlike a tax, at the end of maturation, they get the entire bond returned to them with nominal interest tacked on.

Kind of like our parents and grandparents implemented for us growing up. A forced savings plan… “Oh but I want to spend it….” “No, we’re putting it in savings”… With this plan, like a tax, the government has access to increased funds, but unlike a tax, it pays us back. This has three things going for it.

One it helps us save. The American saving’s rate was negative last year. That means individuals spent more than they had… Obviously when the time comes to pay it back, it will not be good for the economy.

Two it provides a intermediate source of funding for our government. Instead of cutting taxes, this plan augments taxes… Since the money must be paid back upon maturation, the government needs to get a rate of return higher than what it is paying back..

Three. Using this money to decrease the Federal deficit, is a win win for all. Essentially we are using this program to buy up our own stock. It will be us who have control over our nation’s destiny, and not…. it’s foreign creditors…. Applying the entire amount bought in this fashion, to paying down our National Debt, will give us lower taxes in the future. The legislation initiating this program could earmark all revenue from these mandatory bought savings bonds, go towards decreasing our National Debt.

It will take great leadership to change our behavior. The bully pulpit is needed now more than ever. Since the 1980’s, we have funded our economy by borrowing. Anyone can be given an unlimited credit card and then tell us he is living well. For a long time this nation has placed the acquisition of corporate profits as the prime gauge rating the welfare of our nation. Now, with acknowledgment that it will take 4 years of GDP to pay off all debt, private, corporate, and governmental, we understand our predicament.

Simply put: to survive, we need to acquire more money than we spend and use that extra amount to buy down debt. Once our debt is down, we can use that extra amount to spend again, exploding our economy through the roof of expectations.

Advertisements