09 October 2008

Time To Repatriate The National Debt?

A large portion of the federal government's $10 trillion national debt is owed to foreign countries that have invested in Treasury bonds. China is among the biggest. Right now, private investors, nationally and worldwide, are looking for ways to not lose money in private sector securities (i.e. stocks and bonds).

Perhaps this would be a good time to start a public relations and policy campaign (perhaps including tax preferences or preferrential refinancing of foreign sovereign Treasury investments) to reduce foreign sovereign investments in Treasuries by financing more of the national debt with private domestic investors.

This would reduce the economic cost to the American economy of paying interest on the national debt, by pumping the interest proceeds into the U.S. economy, rather than foreign sovereign assets, to a greater extent.

Admittedly, this might increase the interest on the national debt by reducing the pool of investors bidding on Treasuries. But, what better time to make that sacrifice than now, when interest rates are already low. And, if this means paying $300 billion rather than $250 billion a year of interest on the national debt, but only $60 billion of those interest payments, rather than $125 billion of those interest payments go abroad, the net effect might be better for the U.S. economy.

Obviously, the magnitude of the impacts matter. This is an econometric issue. There are good and bad impacts and the magnitude of the impacts matter. But, it is an issue worth thinking about in these terms.

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