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The Next Signal to Watch – Jim Rickards

by Jim Rickards, DailyReckoning:

Trump advisors believe they can avoid a debt crisis through higher than average growth. This is mathematically possible but extremely unlikely.

A debt-to-GDP ratio is the product of two parts — a numerator consisting of nominal debt and a denominator consisting of nominal GDP. In this issue, we have focused on the numerator in the form of massively expanding government debt. Yet, mathematically it is true that if the denominator grows faster than the numerator, the debt ratio will decline.

The Trump team hopes for nominal deficits of about 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and nominal GDP growth of about 6% consisting of 4% real growth and 2% inflation. If that happens, the debt-to-GDP ratio will decline and a crisis might be averted.

This outcome is extremely unlikely. As shown in the chart below, deficits are already over 3% of GDP and are projected by CBO to go higher. We are past the demographic sweet spot that Obama used to his budget advantage in 2012–2016 (As I noted HERE – Obama Has Tied Trump’s Hands).


The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, estimates that inflation and real GDP will each grow at about 2% per year in the coming ten years. This means that nominal GDP, which is the sum of real GDP plus inflation, will grow at about 4% per year. Since debt is incurred and paid in nominal terms, nominal GDP growth is the critical measure of the sustainability of U.S. debt.

The Fiscal Budget

The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, estimates that inflation and real GDP will each grow at about 2% per year in the coming ten years. This means that nominal GDP, which is the sum of real GDP plus inflation, will grow at about 4% per year. Since debt is incurred and paid in nominal terms, nominal GDP growth is the critical measure of the sustainability of U.S. debt.

From now on, retiring Baby Boomers will make demands on social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Disability payments, Veterans benefits and other programs that will drive deficits higher.

The CBO projections show that deficits will increase to 5% of GDP in the years ahead, substantially higher than the hoped for 3% in the Trump team formula.

As for growth, we are now in the eighth year of an expansion — quite long by historical standards. This does not mean a recession occurs tomorrow, but no one should be surprised if it does.

Official CBO projections, shown in the chart below, expect approximately 2% growth and 2% inflation for the next ten years. That would yield 4% nominal growth, not enough to match the deficit projections. The debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to soar even under these rosy scenarios.


The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, estimates that inflation and real GDP will each grow at about 2% per year in the coming ten years. This means that nominal GDP, which is the sum of real GDP plus inflation, will grow at about 4% per year. Since debt is incurred and paid in nominal terms, nominal GDP growth is the critical measure of the sustainability of U.S. debt.

There are numerous problems with the CBO projections. They make no allowance for a recession in the next ten years. That is highly unrealistic considering that the current expansion is already one of the longest in history. A recession will demolish the growth projections and blow-up the deficits at the same time.

CBO also makes no allowance for substantially higher interest rates. With $20 trillion in debt, most of it short-term, a 2% increase in interest rates would quickly add $400 billion per year to the deficit in the form of increased interest expense in addition to any currently project spending (as was noted prior on the Unencumbered Interest Rate Policy – CLICK HERE).

Read More @ DailyReckoning.com

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