A Billion Here, A Billion There…

This is why Andrew Leonard (h/t Yves Smith) gets paid for blogging and I don’t. He tries to do the impossible: make sense out of Michelle Bachmann’s “economics“:

1) The interest can easily be paid for …

Bachmann is making the argument here that the U.S. can choose to pay its creditors — the various holders of government-issued debt — first, and thus not technically be in default. It’s an open question whether credit rating agencies and bond investors will accept that technicality. China might get paid in full, but millions of Americans would immediate get stiffed. Of course, Bachmann doesn’t mention that choosing such a strategy would require extraordinarily severe and immediate spending cuts — around $4.5 billion a day — in programs such as Social Security, Medicare, defense, unemployment benefits, et cetera. Economists generally agree — the negative economic impacts of such drastic short-term cuts in government spending would almost surely drive the U.S. straight back into recession.

Furthermore, a failure to reach agreement on the debt limit would guarantee bond market jitters, pushing up interest rates and raising the cost at which the U.S. government can borrow funds — and thus end up increasing the deficit.

So what happened today? There was a seven-year Treasury auction:

Today the 7 yr saw a yield of 2.43%, 3 bps above the when issued

The WI is where that same note was trading even as it was being auctioned. Which works out to be about a 19.2 cent reduction per $100 of security.

19.2 cents doesn’t sound like much, but there was almost $30 Billion in securities issued. So that’s $55,642,171
that didn’t get paid to the U.S. Treasury (or $57,433,536 if you’re counting the Open Market Activities).

Even if you want to be generous and assume—it’s crazy optimistic, but let’s be really generous—that half a basis point of that is just a long tail (not entirely unreasonable, but rather generous), there are still $46,376,844 (or $47,869,918) that just got left on the table out of fear of near-term deficit issues.

Not incidentally, that’s $46-57+ million dollars that isn’t available for maneuvering to avoid an official default (as opposed to the practical default that has been in effect for almost two months now). From just one of the nearly 300 auctions that are held every year.

But not raising the debt ceiling won’t mean anything. Michelle Bachmann assures us that just because Social Security/Disability/Medicare etc. payments won’t be made for August 3rd, it’s not a problem.

Sooner or later, we’ll be talking about really money. Right now, it’s just your mother’s livelihood. But at least that money has been saved by those who are investing in seven-year Treasuries. Maybe they’ll loan her some of that savings. Oh, right:

At least we know where they got the money to buy the notes.

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