A Billion Here, A Trillion There
| Peter Klein |
How expensive is the bailout? Where will the money come from?
Consider the numbers: $29 billion for the Bear Stearns mess; $700 billion to buy spoiled assets; $200 billion to buy stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; an $85 billion loan to AIG insurance; another $37.8 billion for AIG; and $250 billion for bank stocks. Hundreds of billions in guarantees to back up money market funds and to guarantee bank deposits. And who knows what expenses are still to come. . . .
How will the U.S. pay for it all? Answer: by borrowing — raising worries about how the country’s ballooning annual budget deficits and aggregating debt will affect the economy and financial markets. Some guidelines, such as interest rates and the ratio of debt and deficits to gross domestic product, suggest the new debt will be digested easily. But some experts think those guidelines are misleading, warning that obligations are piling up like tinder on a forest floor.
“This kind of accounting that the government does — if they did it in the private sector they would go to jail,” says Kent Smetters, a professor of insurance and risk management at Wharton.
From Knowldge@Wharton, which reminds us that there’s plenty more to come — a probable bailout of Chrysler and G.M., for instance. And who knows what else. Of course, the US government now has a $10.5 trillion national debt. “To economists, the most frightening fact is that the enormous cost of today’s financial rescues is just a drop in the bucket.”