"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, March 7, 2011

When Innumeracy Meets Hedge Fund Short Sellers

The federal government today reported the largest monthly deficit in America's history, $223 billion, for February 2011.   Significantly, that's more than the annual deficit for 2007 of $161 billion, the last year before the American economy went pffft!    Query:  is our national fiscal insanity the result of bad politics, or simply because Americans can't think logically about numbers this big?   Let's put that $223 billion in perspective.   There are roughly 310 million Americans.   That means the federal government imposed about $750 in additional debt on each person in America just last month.   But there are only about 155 million tax filers in the U.S. as of 2008.   So it's really closer to $1500 per tax filer.   And, of those tax filers, only about 53% pay any income tax at all.   So, for the people who presumably will be asked to pay the federal debt -- the 80 million or so people who actually pay income taxes -- the U.S. government just last month laid close to $3,000 in new debt on them.   But, of course, it's actually worse that even that... because the top 10% of filers pay roughly 70% of income tax, those 15 million people or so will logically be expected to pick up 70% or more of the debt.   So, for those folks, the federal government just last month laid an extra $10,000 in debt on them. 

And, in a related note, hedge funds are "shorting" the dollar, meaning they think it will continue to fall in value against other currencies.   Coincidence?

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