U.S. debt finally draws serious warning by Terry Savage, a financial columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times
Debt worries turn up heat on Congress to act by Jim Spencer of Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Here is an excerpt from Spencer:
"For financial experts and political combatants here and in Minnesota, Monday's double dose of fiscal foreboding carried an unmistakable warning: Do something about the nation's debt.
The day began with news of a possible downgrade in the nation's credit rating and quickly turned into the stock market's worst day in a month as traders reacted to growing doubts that leaders in Washington could find a way out of the debt crisis.
"This was people on Wall Street [speaking] who are agnostic on politics," said U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. "Either we listen to what they said [Monday] or we pay a horrific price."
When Standard & Poor's switched its outlook on the nation's AAA credit rating from stable to negative, it raised the possibility that Americans could find more of their taxes spent on interest instead of public services. The cost of loans to consumers, government and businesses would go up, as well, suppressing an already fragile economic recovery.
"It's kind of scary," said Murray Frank, a University of Minnesota finance professor, adding that the announcement "is taking one of the central pillars of the world's economy and saying it is not grounded.""
Now one from Savage:
"Interest on the national debt is the third-largest federal spending category. In the last 12 months, the Treasury has paid more than $400 billion in interest — and rates are currently at historically low levels. A ratings drop could cost the taxpayers billions in extra interest payments every year. Worse, the higher rates needed to entice borrowers also would negatively affect our economy.
The United States still maintains its “triple A” bond rating, but the downgrade warning signifies concern that Congress will not act prudently to rein in deficit spending.
In its statement, S&P emphasized “the importance of timely bipartisan cooperation and action on fiscal reform.”"
The Wall Street Journal has an article with a chart showing how annual interest payments on the debt will change in the near future. They also say that it was $200 billion this past year. See As Budget Battle Rages On, a Quiet Cancer Grows