The Debt is Not Just a Beltway Problem

In this week’s debate on the Senate floor and the release of several congressional plans to address the deficit and debt, the national debt is on the radar inside Washington. But a recent op-ed by two of CRFB board members (Jim Jones and Douglas Holtz-Eakin) highlights why the national debt is an issue far outside the Beltway and could have huge international consequences.

What are the global implications of spiraling U.S. debt? An ever-growing proportion of our debt must be sold outside U.S. borders and some international investors have publicly expressed concern about continuing to finance our spending. It was no accident that the issue of U.S. debt arose during President Obama’s recent trip to Asia. If international markets come to the conclusion that the United States cannot manage its debt, the U.S. will be unable to continue to borrow as freely, or cheaply, as it now does. The American economy could falter and U.S. securities could lose their value as investors flee to alternatives.

But the international community also offers hope that nations can address their debt problem.  Other nations have been successful at lowering their debt with a credible fiscal plan.   And in fact, a plan to lower a country’s debt can actually improve the country’s economic performance as happened in Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland.