How Interest Rates Affect the Federal Budget

The relationship between stagnant economic growth and high levels of total market debt should be clear to anyone trying to manage a household where their home mortgage payment consumes 50% or more of their entire household income. Similarly, the relationship between economic growth and the ability to borrow should be clear to anyone who has enjoyed the ability to purchase anything and everything in sight right up until they reached the point where every credit card they owned was maxed, and every dime of home equity available to them was already borrowed and spent. These comparisons hold true at the macroscopic level as well.

In the case of the federal government, borrowing has been facilitated by the ability to borrow money at cheap rates of interest. According to the official website of the U.S. Treasury, the Total Outstanding Public Debt, i.e., the total amount of money currently owed by the U.S. federal government is $14.3 trillion. From the same source, the Interest Expense on the Debt Outstanding for the first 9 months of fiscal 2011 (through June 2011) is $389 billion, which equates to an annual expense of $519 billion. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture? The U.S. federal government is only paying interest on its debt at a rate of 3.6%. What happens if this rate of interest goes up?

In the table below, the best case scenario is presented, since it excludes “Read More