The US government is increasingly relying on the Federal Reserve to prop up the Treasury market and absorb the trillions of dollars in bonds it’s issuing in order to fund its massive budget deficits. The Fed now holds a record 16.5% of US debt. And it’s going to have to buy trillions of dollars of additional Treasuries in 2021 to keep pace with government borrowing.
In other words, there is no end in sight to quantitative easing. In fact, the central bank will have to double its scheduled monthly QE in 2021 to catch up to where it was in 2020.
Even as market mania continues over hopes for a coronavirus vaccine, the economic devastation caused by the government response to the pandemic continues to ravage the economy. Seventeen million households are behind on rent or mortgage payments, and nearly 6 million Americans say they are at risk of eviction in the next few months.
Over the last year, the US government had borrowed over $4.2 trillion. The national debt now stands well above $27 trillion. There is no end in sight to the borrowing and spending and that raises a significant question: who is going to buy all of the bonds necessary to finance the government spending machine?
Not too long ago, Uncle Sam could count on foreign investors to gobble up a big chunk of his IOUs, but times are changing. In 2008, foreign investors held more than half of the outstanding Treasury debt. Today, that amount has plunged to the lowest level since the turn of the century.
US taxpayers are on the hook for a $435 billion loss on the $1.37 trillion in student loans that were on the government’s books at the beginning of this year, according to an internal study by the Department of Education recently reported by the Wall Street Journal.
That’s before any loan forgiveness program that might come down the pike under the Biden administration. And the massive number doesn’t account for any student loans issued going forward. It also does not include student loans issued by private lenders but still guaranteed by the federal government.
When governments started locking down the economy in response to coronavirus, the Federal Reserve sprung into action. First, it slashed interest rates to zero. Then it quickly launched what we’ve dubbed QE infinity. In effect, that meant printing trillions of dollars out of thin air and pumping them into the economy.
Meanwhile, the US government did its part, passing a massive stimulus bill – pumping trillions of dollars of borrowed money into the economy. Of course, the Fed monetized a big chunk of that debt via QE infinity. So, in effect, the federal government joined forces with the central bank to pump trillions of dollars out of thin air into the economy.
The US government has borrowed $4.2 trillion in the last 12 months, pushing the total national debt to over $27 trillion. In order for Uncle Sam to borrow, somebody has to lend. So, who is buying all of these government bonds?
Foreign and domestic investors, commercial banks and US government entities all buy US debt, but increasingly, the Federal Reserve is backstopping the market and making this borrowing binge possible.
Demand for investment silver is projected to come in at 236.8 million ounces in 2020. That would mark a 5-year high.
We have argued that the Federal Reserve has no exit strategy from this extraordinary monetary policy. In fact, it never could extricate itself from the extraordinary monetary policy it launched during the Great Recession. Today, we’re merely witnessing the same policy on hyperdrive. And there is still no way out.
Low interest rates are a boon to borrowers. Thus the Federal Reserve’s quest to hold interest rates artificially low during the current economic crisis. We’re told easy money will bolster the economy as consumers and businesses take advantage of low rates and spend.
But if you’re trying to save money, this anything but a boon. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to save for retirement in the current interest rate environment. Today, your average Joe is forced to invest in increasingly riskier assets in order to generate enough money to retire on.
If you thought maybe the federal government would try to rein in the spending after running a recorded budget deficit of $3.13 trillion in fiscal 2020, you were sorely disappointed. Uncle Sam has not kicked his spending habit.
October was the first month of FY 2021 and the federal government kicked off the year with a $284.1 billion budget deficit, according to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement. It was the largest October budget shortfall in American history.