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Economic Turmoil

Posted by: Chris Cook, CPA, MBA on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 11:52:47 am

There have been a lot of concerns surrounding the current US economic situation. While it is serious, there are a lot of different views that are creating more confusion. Here are some quick thoughts that I believe will shed some additional light on the situation.

Debt Ceiling

In the first few days of August we heard that we had reached our debt ceiling and that if it was not raised, the US would be in default on its obligations.  There is some truth, but also some misconceptions in that thought.  Assume you are utilizing a credit card to pay bills, etc with a $10,000 limit and you currently have $9,500 balance on the credit card, you have $500 remaining prior to hitting your personal debt ceiling.  What are your choices if you want to continue to use the credit card? {Get another credit card, get a line increase}.  If you have the ability to get another card or get a line increase, you will not default on the payments you are making, but payments may be delayed or delinquent until you get the new card or a line increase.  You would still have the ability to make payments on your bills rather than using your credit cards you will be limited to what is in your checking account or the cash you have available.  Congress needed to increase the “credit line” or debt ceiling so the US Treasury could continue to borrow.  While the US was not bankrupt like other European nations, without the increase the US Treasury could not continue to issue debt to pay the bills.  While the US Treasury would still have been able to pay some bills due to revenues, other bills could not be paid because the government is paying more out than they are receiving in revenues.  This practice of paying out more than revenues at the current pace is not sustainable and Congress must find a way to match revenues and expenses in the near future (balanced budget).

S&P Downgrade

S & P reduced the ratings of the US government due to the above discussion.  In normal situations, a downgrade of a company’s rating would result in the company to pay higher interest rates due to being seen as a riskier investment.  After the S & P downgrade the US Treasuries interest rates actually decreased due to it being the most liquid currency and the faith put into the US economic system around the world.  So, while a decrease in the S & P rating should not be taken lightly, due to the increasing debt of the US, we should not allow others to convince us that the sky is falling.  The most liquid, secure investment continues to be US debt (Treasuries) and other corporate debt will continue to be priced off of US Treasuries.

Conclusion

Congress must find a way to reduce the increase in the US debt.  The final outcome will probably be increased revenues (tax increases) and expense reduction (reducing government programs) to help balance the budget.  The current level of expenses versus the revenues generated is not sustainable and a balance approach to solving this issue is necessary.

Chris Cook, CPA, MBA
Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Chief FInancial Officer
MutualFirst Financial, Inc. and MutualBank
Email Chris 

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