The economy was front and center Wednesday night as President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney took the stage in Denver for the first debate of this election season. No doubt subsequent debates will center on other issues, but I suspect that the economy will be incorporated into every event because “it” is the subject of this election.
Yesterday a copy of this month’s Investment Outlook written by Bill Gross crossed my desk. Bill Gross, as many of you know, is the Founder (1971) and Managing Director of PIMCO mutual funds. He could be called a “bond guru” as he manages hundreds of billions of dollars that are invested in an assortment of bond instruments. His opinions are backed up by performance and experience. When he says, “I don’t believe in the imminent demise of the U.S. economy and its financial markets. But I’m afraid for them”… well this gets my attention.
Gross has been studying the annual reports of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which describe the financial balance sheets and prospective budgets of many nations. He compiled all three studies into one “ring of fire” illustration to show relative financial health of the various countries. In the relative healthy ring are Brazil, China, Mexico, Canada and Russia. In the unsustainable “ring of fire” are Spain, Greece, Great Britain, and…you guessed it, the United States. We are second only to Japan in the developed world.
To close this “fiscal gap” would require a combination of increased revenue and decreased spending amounting to $1.6 trillion per year. “We need to cut spending or raise taxes by 11% of GDP and rather quickly over the next five to ten years.” So far the President and Congress haven’t even been able to agree on a solution that arrived at one-fourth that amount. And if one were to add in the unfunded future liabilities posed by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the actual debt of the U.S. is a whopping four times higher than the $16 trillion we hear on the news.
To quote Gross, “the U.S … has been inhaling debt’s methamphetamine crystals for some time now, and kicking the habit looks incredibly difficult … If the fiscal gap isn’t closed even ever so gradually over the next few years … the damage would likely be beyond repair.”
I sense we as a culture are facing a time of mutual sacrifice on the order of World War II. Every citizen is going to feel the pain for us to get out of this fiscal mess. It can be done. I’m listening to see if any of the candidates has the “nerve” to speak this truth. Our future depends on honest leadership. We as a people are up to it, but we don’t have the leisure of waiting. It is our turn at bat.
~ Nancy Jones, CFP® – Brooks, Hughes & Jones – Partners in Wealth Management, Tacoma, WA