U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion in one day — tops $17 trillion for first time.

government spending(1)

U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion — tops $17 trillion for first time

By Stephen Dinan

The Washington Times

Friday, October 18, 2013

U.S. debt jumped a record $328 billion on Thursday, the first day the federal government was able to borrow money under the deal President Obama and Congress sealed this week.

The debt now equals $17.075 trillion, according to figures the Treasury Department posted online on Friday.



The $328 billion increase shattered the previous high of $238 billion set two years ago.

The giant jump comes because the government was replenishing its stock of “extraordinary measures” — the federal funds it borrowed from over the last five months as it tried to avoid bumping into the debt ceiling.

Under the law, that replenishing happens as soon as there is new debt space.

In this case, the Treasury Department borrowed $400 billion from other funds beginning in May, awaiting a final deal from Congress and Mr. Obama.

Usually Congress sets a borrowing limit, or debt ceiling, that caps the total amount the government can be in the red.

But under the terms of this week’s deal, Congress set a deadline instead of a dollar cap. That means debt can rise as much as Mr. Obama and Congress want it to, until the Feb. 7 deadline.



Judging by the rate of increase over the last five months, that could end up meaning Congress just granted Mr. Obama a debt increase of $700 billion or more.

Republicans initially sought to attach strings to the debt increase, but surrendered this week, instead settling on a bill that reopened the government and included some special earmark projects, but didn’t include any spending cuts.

Democrats insisted that the debt increase be “clean,” meaning without any strings attached. They say the debt increase only allows Mr. Obama to pay for the bills he and Congress already racked up, and that it doesn’t encourage new spending.

Get your fiscal house in order: China warns US as superpower expresses concern for $1.3tn of investments

china

Get your fiscal house in order: China warns US as superpower expresses concern for $1.3tn of investments

‘Clock is ticking’, says Chinese minister, as US fails to break deadlock over government shutdown and fast-approaching ‘debt ceiling’ deadline

MONDAY 07 OCTOBER 2013

China, the biggest foreign creditor of the United States, has waded into the American budget crisis, warning Congress that it must resolve the political impasse over the debt ceiling without further delay.

The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Zhu Guangyao, told America’s deadlocked politicians on Monday that “the clock is ticking” and called on them to approve an extension of the national borrowing limit before the federal government is projected to run out of cash on 17 October.

“We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way the political issues around the debt ceiling and prevent a US debt default to ensure the safety of Chinese investments in the United States,”  Mr Zhu told reporters in Beijing. “This is the United States’ responsibility,” he added.

The American government entered its seventh day of shutdown on Monday, following the failure of Congress to approve the national budget a week ago. And there was little sign of progress on the still more crucial issue of the fast-approaching “debt ceiling”  deadline. Yet rather than indicating  a willingness to negotiate, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, stated on Sunday that it was “time for us to stand and fight” over the budget. He added that a default was “the path we’re on”. American stock markets opened down in response to the belligerent comments yesterday, with the S&P 500 Index of leading shares shedding 0.5 per cent.

In September 2008 China eclipsed Japan to become the biggest single foreign creditor of the US federal government. The US administration estimates that the China government holds at least $1.3 trillion of its bonds. The total could be higher because Beijing is known to hold American debt through intermediaries. And, in total, the Beijing authorities have $3.5trn of dollar-denominated assets, which would also be hit hard in the event of a default.

These vast foreign exchange holdings are a by-product of China’s closed financial system and persistent current account surplus, which means that most foreign currency that enters the country accumulates with the central bank. The central bank then invests the money in normally “safe” dollar assets. The vast dollar reserves are also a legacy of China’s policy in recent decades of artificially holding down the value of its currency, the renminbi, in order to boost the overseas sales of its politically influential export industry.

However, economists have criticised the popular idea that China could exert political or economic leverage over Washington by threatening to sell its dollar investments, since such a drastic shift would ultimately serve to undermine the paper value of Beijing’s own vast investment portfolio. Nevertheless, China’s creditor position and its status as the world’s second largest economy gives its voice some authority in Washington and Mr Zhu made it clear that private representations had already been made. “The US is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments,” he said yesterday.

Since the global financial crisis, which led to a sharp depreciation in the value of the dollar against the renminbi, the authorities in Beijing have been concerned about the fact that so much of their national reserves are held in the form of the American currency. China has been promoting the idea of a new reserve currency to replace the greenback, with some analysts suggesting that the renminbi could one day take its place.

Mr Zhu stressed that it was vital, not only for China but the wider global economy, for America to resolve its budget impasse. “Safeguarding the debt is of vital importance to the economy of the US and the world,” he said. Referring to a similar deadlock in 2011, which led to a downgrade of the US AAA credit rating by the Standard & Poor’s agency, Mr Zhu said: “We hope the United States fully understands the lessons of history.”

The concerns over the stability of the dollar come at a time of geo-political flux. Barack Obama has sought to “pivot” his foreign policy to Asia to counter China’s growing military influence. But the shutdown has forced the US President to cancel his visit to Asia this week to attend a summit.