Has Social Security Run Out of Suckers?

Did you know that the U.S. government has run a budget deficit in the month of October 70 times out of the past 70 fiscal years?

This notable fact was listed under the “Highlight” section of the Monthly Treasury Statement for receipts and outlays through October 31, 2023.  This month also happens to be the first month of the 2024 fiscal year.

Consistency is a virtue in many facets of life.  It is representative of reliability and integrity.  Dependable employees show up to work on time, rain or shine.  Reliable tenants always pay their rent on the first of the month, without fail.

Consistency can also be a serious defect.  For example, Richard Ramirez – the Night Stalker – was a consistent serial killer.  His reliability was deadly.

In this regard, running deficits in October 70 times out of 70 years is representative of extreme government failure.  That this ugly defect was listed as a highlight in the Treasury Statement is commendable. Continue reading

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Just Another American Story

Wish that I was on ol’ Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain’t no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain’t no telephone bills

Once I had a girl on Rocky Top
Half bear, other half cat
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop
I still dream about that

Rocky Top, As performed by the Osborne Brothers

Rise and Fall

This is a story that dates back over a billion years.  To the Proterozoic Era.  If you can stretch your mind to consider how long ago that was you can understand how sedimentary rock is formed and how it bonds you over eons to the natural world.

Over hundreds of millions of years, clay, silt, sand, and gravel, with some calcium carbonate, collected in deposits on the ocean bottom along the ancient margin of the North American continent.  Over time, these sediments cemented together and formed into layers of sedimentary rock over nine miles thick. Continue reading

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The Swamp Walker Delight

If you can understand how the modern swamp walker thinks, you are better positioned to see how credit rating agencies and stopgap bills are both moving America towards a similar end.

Last week Moody’s Investor Service lowered its U.S. credit outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘negative.’  At the same time, Moody’s kept the U.S. at AAA, its highest rating.  What’s the holdup?

Several months ago, Fitch downgraded its U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+.  S&P Global Ratings downgraded U.S. credit all the way back in 2011.  Does Moody’s really believe U.S. credit is ultra-safe?

By all honest accounts, the U.S. government’s financial condition has changed dramatically for the worst over the last 50 years.  Somehow Moody’s rates its credit as if the nation’s debt profile is still sound and sober.

By lowering its credit outlook Moody’s is likely setting the stage for an actual downgrade. Yet at this point a credit downgrade would come much too late for anyone to really care about.  Certainly, it won’t compel Washington to get a handle on its spending problem. Continue reading

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The War and Peace of Secular Market Cycles

Projections from the Congressional Budget Office show Washington racking up an additional $20.2 trillion in debt over the next decade.  That would put the national debt somewhere around $54 trillion.

The national debt, which is the accumulation of annual budget deficits, is growing at a rate of roughly $2 trillion per year.  Much of this debt is needed to make good on mandatory outlays like social security, medicare, and health spending.  Some of the debt covers discretionary spending such as defense and transportation.

There’s also net interest on debt.  This recently topped $1 trillion a year for the first time ever.  Washington is essentially borrowing money to pay the interest on the debt.  This is no way to run a country.

These projections – the $2 trillion per year deficits – generally assume everything remains status quo.  That real gross domestic product increases at an annual rate of 2.4 percent.  And that there are no new wars, pandemics, or other freedom inhibiting crisis events – whether intentional or not – that would blow these budget projections out of the water. Continue reading

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