Monday, June 4, 2012

Invest Now to Grow Later

The economy isn't in good shape these days really just about anywhere in the world.  This global economic doom and gloom, though, has created a rather Un-Greek opportunity for the United States.  In an op-ed piece former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers lays out the situation very succinctly:
 In real terms, the world is prepared to pay the U.S. more than 100 basis points to store its money for five years and more than 50 basis points for 10 years. Maturities would have to reach more than 20 years before the interest rates on indexed bonds becomes positive.
Basically, the U.S. can sell bonds, the market will buy, and we'll pay less than the face value to service that bond for over 20 years.  In other words this is free money.  So what could we do with this money?  Well Matt Yglesias brings up the issue of aging water infrastructure in the nation's capitol where the average water main is 77 years old.  This sort of infrastructure investment will be necessary at some point, and that point, after 77 years, is probably sooner rather then later.  Much like healthcare, it's cheaper to maintain the health of our infrastructure then to pay to replace it after a calamity.  Back to Sec. Summer, he notes: 
Any rational chief financial officer in the private sector would see this as a moment to extend debt maturities and lock in low rates – exactly the opposite of what central banks are doing.
In other words, we're missing our moment, because we've become afraid of debt.  But we aren't Greece and while we have some systemic debt issues we must address, I'm comfortable in suggesting we're still going to want roads, bridge, and running water.  Why not lock in a ridiculously low rate to make that investment now?

1 comment:

Colin said...

Modest proposal: the federal government should stick to federal responsibilities while local issues, such as sewers, should be handled by local governments.