Monday, January 12, 2009

Bailout Math and Implications

In an effort to try to understand the more than $8 trillion guarantee our government has made to bailout our financial mess, I tried to assemble a spreadsheet and before long I was drowning in acronyms and conflicting information that was beginning to remind me of an elaborate shell game a Bernie Madoff might have constructed. How can we manage to make transparency so confusing?

To the rescue, though, is a magnificent, clear summary published by Bianco Research which came to my attention through the From Behind the Headlines blog by Michael Kahn While the details can be seen from what was published in SFO Magazine here is a summary of Bianco's work (figures are in billions):

Measuring the Size of the Bailouts

THE FEDERAL RESERVE (Net Portfolio Commercial Paper Funding,
Term Auction Facility, Other Assets, Money Market Investor Funding Facility, MBS/FHLB Agency in Reverse Auctions, Term Securities Lending Facility, AIG Loan, Primary Credit Discount, Asset Backed Commercial Paper Liquidity, Primary Dealers and Others, Bear Stearns Assets, Securities Lending Overnight, Secondary Credit)
FEDERAL RESERVE TOTAL $5,065.0 Maximum / $1,839.5 Current

THE FDIC (FDIC Liquidity Guarantees, Loan Guarantee to GE)
FDIC TOTAL $1,539.0 Maximum / $139.0 Current

TREASURY DEPARTMENT (Fannie/Freddie Bailout, Spring 08 Stimulus Package, Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund, Tax Break for Banks, Citibank Asset Backstop, Tem Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility)
TREASURY DEPT TOTAL $1,803.0 Maximum / $597.0 Current

FHA (Hope for Homeowners) $300 Maximum / $300 Current

DEPT ENERGY (Auto Loans) $25 Maximum / $25 Current

GRAND TOTAL $8,707.0 Maximum / $2,875.5 Current

Here is a translation of how this looks in “real dollars:”

These staggering figures are before the Obama infrastructure / jobs programs get into full swing, so we can be talking about more than $9 trillion. To put this in perspective, according to the Congressional Budget Office GDP in 2009 will be $14.2 trillion, while outlays will be $3.5 trillion and total revenues $2.3, a deficit of some $1.2 trillion.

This assumes we can have confidence in government projections. Looking at the real world in a rear view mirror, this is how the budget deficits have been ramping up the National Debt since the Bush administration took office:

9/30/2000 $5,674,178,209,887
9/30/2001 $5,807,463,412,200
9/30/2002 $6,228,235,965,597
9/30/2003 $6,783,231,062,744
9/30/2004 $7,379,052,696,330
9/30/2005 $7,932,709,661,724
9/30/2006 $8,506,973,899,215
9/30/2007 $9,007,653,372,262
9/30/2008 $10,024,724,896,912
1/8/2009 $10,608,325,323,173

I include the latest figure (more than a $½ trillion increase in only 100 days) from the following handy calculator as it shows a parabolic trend. The extent to which the bailouts work is going to enormously impact the budget projections, both on the revenue and outlay sides of the ledger. Tweaking the former down because of the severity of the recession and the latter upwards because of more bailouts puts us on an irreversible course. It was not long ago that the main discussion concerning the long-term budget centered on the ticking time bombs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These threats have not disappeared, but they become even more formable as our precious resources have to be spent on surviving today to wage that war tomorrow.

The foregoing figures come from the Congressional Budget Office. Their published outlook is remarkably pointed:

The Budget Outlook for 2009
The federal fiscal situation in 2009 will be dramatically worse than it was in 2008. Under the assumption that current laws and policies remain in place (that is, not accounting for any new legislation), CBO estimates that the deficit this year will total $1.2 trillion, more than two and a half times the size of last year’s. As a percentage of GDP, the deficit this year will total 8.3 percent (as compared with 3.2 percent in 2008)––the largest since 1945.

The deterioration in the fiscal picture results from both increased outlays and decreased revenues. Relative to what they were last year, outlays will rise dramatically— by 19 percent according to CBO’s estimates. Much of that increase is a result of policy responses to the turmoil in the housing and financial markets—particularly spending for the TARP and the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In addition, economic developments have reduced tax receipts (particularly from individual and corporate income taxes) and boosted spending on programs such as those providing unemployment compensation and nutrition assistance as well as those with cost-of-living adjustments.

Without changes in current laws and policies, CBO estimates, outlays will rise from $3.0 trillion in 2008 to $3.5 trillion in 2009 (see Table 5). Mandatory spending is projected to grow by almost $570 billion, or by 36 percent; nearly three-quarters of that growth results from the activities of the TARP and CBO’s treatment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as federal entities. Discretionary spending is projected to grow by $52 billion, or by 4.6 percent. In contrast, net interest is anticipated to decline by 22 percent as a result of lower interest rates and lower inflation. In total, outlays will be equal to 24.9 percent of GDP, a level exceeded only during the later years of World War II.

Spending for certain other mandatory programs is expected to rise sharply this year. The faltering economy has increased outlays for unemployment compensation and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Unemployment compensation is projected to nearly double— from $43 billion last year to $79 billion this year— as a result of increased unemployment and legislation to date extending such benefits. Outlays for the nutrition assistance program are expected to grow by 27 percent— from $39 billion to $50 billion—primarily because of increases in caseloads and benefits (resulting from higher food prices).

The three largest mandatory programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are all anticipated to record growth of at least 8 percent this year. Some of that growth stems from the relatively high rate of inflation recorded early in 2008, which boosted cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and the cost of health care. In addition, rising unemployment will add to Medicaid spending by increasing the number of beneficiaries.

Discretionary spending under current laws and policies is projected to grow by 4.6 percent in 2009. In CBO’s baseline, defense outlays rise by 5.0 percent and nondefense outlays by 4.1 percent. However, most programs are currently operating under a continuing resolution, which holds funding for 2009 at the level provided for 2008. Final appropriations and additional funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may increase outlays for 2009 and beyond, and any stimulus package may raisediscretionary spending further.