Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kotlikoff on debt

Lawrence Kotlikoff worries about when the debt-to-GDP ratio hits the critical level:
CBO’s baseline budget updates suggest the date for reaching what Carmen Reinhart, Kenneth Rogoff and other prominent economists believe is a critical insolvency threshold -- a 90 percent ratio of federal debt held by the public to gross domestic product -- has moved four years closer, in just nine months!


Actually, 2017 is optimistic. Uncle Sam’s creditors will soon start charging exorbitant interest rates -- like those Greece, Ireland and Portugal now face. The market’s concern with those countries’ bonds is outright default, which is unlikely in the U.S. What is likely is rising inflation as the Federal Reserve continues to print vast quantities of money to help pay the Treasury’s bills.
I generally don’t give investment advice, but Bill Gross, co-founder of PIMCO and manager of the world’s largest bond mutual fund, has it right. It’s time to dump all but your very short-term U.S. Treasuries and other dollar-denominated bonds. A safer alternative is Treasury inflation protected securities, or TIPS.

Kotlikoff makes Greg Mankiw look like a giddy optimist.

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