The New York Times reports today:
As the Obama administration racks up an unprecedented spending bill for bank bailouts, Detroit rescues, health care overhauls and stimulus plans, the bond market is starting to push up the cost of trillions of dollars in borrowing for the government.
Last week, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose to its highest level since November, briefly touching 3.17 percent, a sign that investors are demanding larger returns on the masses of United States debt being issued to finance an economic recovery.
Already, in the first six months of this fiscal year, the federal deficit is running at $956.8 billion, or nearly one seventh of gross domestic product — levels not seen since World War II … Debt held by the public is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to rise from 41 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009 and to a peak of around 54 percent in 2011
The trouble is that government borrowing risks crowding out private investment, driving up interest rates and potentially slowing a recovery still trying to take hold. That is why the Federal Reserve announced an extraordinary policy this year to buy back existing long-term debt — $300 billion over six months — to drive down yields. The strategy worked for a while, but now the impact of that decision appears to be wearing off as long-term interest rates tick up again.
Then there is the concern that the interest the government must pay on its debt obligations may become unsustainable or weigh on future generations. The Congressional Budget Office expects interest payments to more than quadruple in the next decade as Washington borrows and spends, to $806 billion by 2019 from $172 billion next year.
One worry, however, is that there are fewer eager lenders to buy all that American debt. Most of the world is in recession, and other nations have rising borrowing needs as well. As other nations’ surpluses turn to deficits, America will face competition in global financial markets for its borrowing needs.
Heritage fellow J.D. Foster explored the ramifications of the Global Government Debt Bubble earlier this year:
Expected federal borrowing for 2009 and 2010 will be far from modest, and the consequences will be significant for interest rates–and potentially crippling for the economy. Using just the consensus estimates, the projected increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio for 2009 alone will raise interest rates by between 0.39 and 0.65 percentage points. In today’s terms, the average mortgage rate at the end of January was about 5.33 percent on a conforming loan mortgage. At the end of 2009, if nothing else occurs, this rate would be between 5.75 and 6 percent.
Using the consensus estimates, by the end of 2010 interest rates will be up another 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points, for a total increase due to the government debt bubble of 0.7 and 1.1 percentage points. That would mean that today’s mortgage rate of 5.33 percent would be between 6 percent and 6.4 percent. Such increases in interest rates would significantly weaken the economy further and delay for many months any hope of significant recovery.