Can America Go Bankrupt?

Our fiscal tab just keeps growing.

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Let's see here: $500 billion budget deficits, the possibility of a $500 billion bank bailout in 2009, and exploding entitlement costs. Surely, this can't be good. My pal Arnold Kling doesn't think so:

Think of the U.S. government as the world's biggest hedge fund. One thing a hedge fund does is engage in credit arbitrage. When you can borrow risk-free, you can make a profit holding risky assets. That is what Congress is hoping will happen with the Freddie-Fannie bailout. We have grown accustomed to the assumption that the risk of default of U.S. government liabilities is zero. That in turn allows Congress to act like the biggest hedge fund on the block. Consider the long-term obligations of the U.S. government: Social Security, Medicare, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, public employee pension plans. Add to those the risks of the securities that the government is effectively choosing to guarantee in the Bear Stearns merger, the Freddie-Fannie prop-up, and other steps that are being taken or will be taken in the mortgage and financial market. It seems to me that in order to achieve short-term stability we are piling on long-term fragility.... If people do not have confidence in the long-term financial stability of the U.S. government, the chances are that they will not have much confidence in the long-term stability of U.S. corporations, and so you would see a collapse of long-term investment altogether.

deficit and national debt
federal budget

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