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Can You Spell PIGS with a U and an S?

By    |   Wednesday, 04 Jul 2012 05:08 PM

On this July 4th I will bring you wishes of happiness and good will. However, I also bring a grave warning.

The United States is on the verge of a massive debt crisis. We all know we look at the Europeans as the basket cases. However, there is not really much difference between what is going on in the U.S. at the moment and what is going on in Europe. The only real difference is the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency of the world, and so the country can print money to buy its own debt. That has helped keep interest rates low.

However, if you look at the raw numbers, the situation is not much better in the U.S. than in, say, Spain or Italy. Spain, for example, has a debt that will near 80 percent of GDP (90 percent including the loan for their banks) this year and a deficit of around 7 percent of GDP. Italy has a high debt of near 120 percent of GDP, but a deficit of just over 4 percent of GDP.

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The raw U.S. numbers suggest that debt will go over 100 percent of GDP this year, with the deficit is near 8 percent of GDP. It should be noted that historically when the ratio of debt to GDP goes over 90 percent, that is usually when the economy slows and inflation picks up. I think the only thing that is keeping the U.S. debt ship afloat is the crisis in Europe as investors flee to U.S. debt, thinking foolishly it is safe.

However, the numbers I mention do not lie. Recently, I was having dinner at a restaurant here in the Bahamas and I got talking to a family from New Jersey who was on vacation. We were talking about the European cup, and they had been talking to friends in Europe and no one cared about the debt crisis because of 6 letters—soccer—and that denial was also spelled with 6 letters! Probably a correct statement, except for we see thousands of people at NFL games, then NBA games, NHL games, MLB games; even the U.S. soccer league draws tens of thousands. So I could very easily say the same thing. My point is that many Americans seem to think that this debt problem is something that is happening in Europe and will not affect them.

What compounds the U.S. debt problem is that European economies are highly regulated and can easily be liberalized and social spending cut. A lot of U.S. spending goes into its military, and if that is cut then hundreds of thousands if not millions of soldiers come back home and it adds to the unemployment problem.

In addition, the Republicans and Democrats seem to be at odds almost as much as the Spanish, Italians and Germans in terms of solving these problems. And if we get another split House, Senate and presidency in the fall, it is just going to make solutions to these problems even worse.

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In the end I see what is going on in Italy and Spain, with interest rates spiking and governments forced to cut on the back of increasing interest expenditures, occurring in the U.S.

Just because the U.S. is the world’s reserve currency and America can print its own money does not mean the country can operate outside the rules of economics. At some point investors will want more return on their money for the increasingly unsafe U.S. fiscal situation.

About the Author: David Skarica David Skarica is a member of the Moneynews Financial Brain Trust. Click Here to read more of his articles. He also writes the Gold Stock Adviser. Discover more by Clicking Here Now.

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2012-08-04
Wednesday, 04 Jul 2012 05:08 PM
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