原创翻译:龙腾网 http://ytdhkj.com 翻译:神刀 转载请注明出处

America's Greatest Enemy Is Neither China nor Russia (It's Debt)


What happens if the United States can't pay down its debt?


by Joergen Oerstroem Moeller
What looked possible some years ago have with recent economic policy decisions turned into a realistic scenario: the United States face a technical default.
The figures and forecasts published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) leave little doubt. Currently, net interest burden accounts for 1.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) equal to 9.4 percent of federal revenue absorbing about one out of every ten U.S. dollars of federal revenue. In 2022—four years from now—it will be 2.7 percent of GDP equal to 16 percent of federal revenue absorbing one out of every six U.S dollars of federal revenue. Measured in share of total outlays, net interest will jump from 7.6 percent in 2018 to 12.2 percent in 2022 and 13 percent in 2028. This forecast though is based on very optimistic assumptions for the U.S. economy. Taking changes over the preceding couple of weeks into account, a net interest burden of 20 percent of total federal revenue looks realistic—a staggering figure with every American seeing one of every five U.S. dollars paid to the government used to finance debt.

目前,净利息负担占国内生产总值( GDP ) 的1.6%,相当于联邦收入的9.4%,约占联邦收入的十分之一。

Analyzing the composition of the budget it becomes clear that financing the net interest burden in 2022, not to speak of 2028, constitutes a challenge that the United States is unlikely to resolve without resorting to unconventional methods.
Mandatory expenditure accounts for 61 percent of total outlays in 2018, and according to the CBO, 64 percent in 2028. The remaining part of the budget is discretionary spending, which, including defense, gobbles up $622 billion (38 percent of discretionary spending) and net interest burden, adding up to $316 billion (19.8 percent of discretionary spending). The remaining discretionary outlays or around $700 to 800 billion are mainly for Medicare and other social welfare related programs.

幸运11选5_[官网首页]预算的剩余部分是可自由支配的开支,其中包括国防开支,消耗了6220亿美元( 占可自由支配开支的38% ) ,净利息负担总计达3160亿美元( 占可自由支配开支的19.8% ),其余的可自由支配支出,即大约7000亿至8000亿美元,主要用于医疗保险和其他社会福利相关项目。

The U.S. trade offensive against China has led some observers to float the idea that China might threaten to dump its stocks of U.S. treasury bonds onto the market. This, however, is not going to happen. If it did, the dollar would fall, making it more difficult to export to the United States and drive up interest rates with the added negative effects on growth reducing consumption. China—and Japan—do not want that.
But they may be willing to restructure the debt. This is an offer in the style of The Godfather : “an offer you cannot refuse.” Both sides stand to gain something. Trump will claim that he took on China and managed to cut payments. China, in turn, can claim that a trade war was avoided and a restructuring deal does not mean it has given up its claims. Rather, the money will be paid over a longer period of time, or whatever other narrative is chosen.


At a first glance it may look like China stands to gain unprecedented economic power over the United States, but a deeper analysis leads to a different conclusion. It will bring home what the daily exchange of threats obfuscates: that the two economies can only thrive in tandem. China has no interest whatsoever in a weak American economy; it needs the U.S. market for its exports, incoming and outgoing direct investment with American companies, a strong supply chain allowing it to play on its comparative advantage and an American commitment to economic globalization. The United States, for its part, shares an interest in maintaining and deepening the existing supply chains, plus operating in Chinese markets where many large American multinationals harvest a strong profit.


Politically, however, the United States will unquestionably come out as a loser. It would be interpreted as a loss of face at home, in China and all over the world: the world’s former economic superpower has to ask for help to service its debt so unwisely run up over several decades.
The question will be asked whether China will put a price on its help. It may not need to do so because the mere signal of American economic impotence is sufficient to tip the scales where both the United States and China have conflicting interests. According to Wikileaks, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked to Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a conversation in March 2009, "How do you deal toughly with your banker?" In an interview in May 2012, after his retirement as chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen fleshed it out saying “Actually the way I said it was—and I still believe this—that it’s the single biggest threat to our national security. Obviously it’s complex, but the way I looked at it, if we didn’t get control of our debt, there would be continued loss of confidence in America.”


These astute and blunt revelations of the nexus between debt, power and confidence have largely been forgotten as the federal deficit over recent years fell to around 3 percent. The figures outlined above disclose that the birds let loose are now coming home to roost engineering a gradual power shift from one big power to another through the intricate ways such power shifts take place.


Joergen Oerstroem Moeller is a former state secretary in the Royal Danish Foreign Ministry. He is a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

约尔根 ·厄斯特罗姆 · 默勒是丹麦皇家外交部前国务秘书,他也是新加坡 ISEAS Yusof Ishak 学院的客座高级研究员。