Posts Tagged ‘treasury’

Why the Next Debt Limit Debacle Might be Worse

Congress’s latest flirtation with debt-limit default caused barely a ripple in the financial markets. Rates on short-term Treasuries spiked in early October, before quickly subsiding to more normal levels. The spread between one- and three-year Treasuries temporarily widened, but quickly fell back to a more normal trend. All told, financial markets barely blinked. Unfortunately, the […]

The Fed and America’s Debt

Is the Federal Reserve part of the government? You might think so, but you wouldn’t know it from the way we talk about America’s debt. When it comes to the debt held by the public, for example, the Fed is just a member of the public. That accounting reflects the Fed’s unusual independence from the […]

Uncle Sam’s Trillion-Dollar Portfolio Partly Offsets the Public Debt

When policy folks talk about America’s federal borrowing, their go-to measures are the public debt, currently $12 trillion, and its ratio to gross domestic product, which is approaching 75 percent. Those figures represent the debt that Treasury has sold into public capital markets, pays interest on, and will one day roll over or repay. These […]

Uncle Sam’s Growing Investment Portfolio

The federal government has been borrowing rapidly to finance recent budget deficits. But that’s not the only reason it’s gone deeper into debt. Uncle Sam also borrows to issue loans, build up cash, and make other financial investments. Those financial activities have accounted for an important part of government borrowing in recent years. Since October […]

Does the Tax Reform Act of 1986 Offer Lessons for Future Reform?

As the economic coordinator of the Treasury study that led to Tax Reform Act of 1986, I’ve always found it fascinating to read and listen to stories about the law.   Many seek the linear trend from cause to effect to secondary cause to enactment, as if there was  some logical series of events that made […]

The Day the United States Defaulted on Treasury Bills

Since the day of Alexander Hamilton, the United States has never defaulted on the federal debt. That’s what we budget-watchers always say. It’s a great talking point. One that helps bolster the argument that default should not be an option in Washington’s ongoing debt limit slowdown. There’s just one teensy problem: it isn’t true. As […]

Too Many Cooks on Tax Policy?

I’m preparing a presentation on our tax system for a group of visiting foreign tax officials and they wanted to know how responsibilities are divided within the federal government.  Seems like a fair question. In other countries, the process is often quite streamlined:  a Ministry of Finance, which makes the political decisions, a Treasury Department, […]