Is The US National Debt Unsustainable? 'We Can't Have A Deficit Of 7% Of The GDP'

Zinger Key Points
  • IMF's Gita Gopinath urges US to cut 7% GDP deficit amidst inflation concerns.
  • High US borrowing costs may impact global borrowing, with little relief from future rate cuts.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) deputy chief Gita Gopinath raised concerns about the United States’ burgeoning public debt, emphasizing the urgency of reducing the federal deficit from its current 7% of GDP.

“The U.S. is running [a] very large deficit for a country with a strong demand, and they still have to deal with the last mile to bring inflation down,” Gita Gopinath, said Friday in a Bloomberg interview during the IMF Spring Meetings.

“We can't have a deficit of 7% of GDP, it needs to be lower,” Gopinath added.

The US Government Has A Fiscal Challenge: The Figures Don't Lie

The U.S. government fiscal deficit ballooned to 8.8% of GDP in 2023, marking a considerable increase from the previous year's 4.1%. This surge has been largely attributed to a significant fall in income tax revenues paired with escalated government expenditure.

Peering into the future, the IMF's Fiscal Monitor publication forecasted only a minor contraction of the U.S. budget deficit to 6.6% of GDP in 2024.

However, the relief appears short-lived as estimates indicate a rebound to 7.1% in 2025, with the deficit remaining constantly above 6% through 2029.

That signals a worrisome upward trend for the U.S. government debt-to-GDP ratio, which is expected to climb from 122% to 134% by 2029, according to the IMF projections.

YearGovernment Deficit (As % of GDP)Government Debt As % of GDP
Data: IMF Fiscal Monitor – April 2024

The Ripple Effect Of US Debt Dynamics

Gopinath cautioned that if U.S. fiscal challenges are left unchecked, they risk threatening global economic stability.

“That has consequences for debt servicing in the U.S. and spillovers to the rest of the world.” A central point of Gopinath’s concern is the ‘”crowding out” effect, where U.S. borrowing could heighten borrowing costs globally.

“When you have debt issues in the U.S., that can crowd out the borrowing from other countries, as their cost of borrowing will increase by much more.”

Furthermore, Gopinath noted that while the U.S. does not currently face a debt sustainability crisis, the heavy borrowing is pushing interest rates higher, which reverberates through global financial systems and affects international corporations.

Not Much Relief Coming From Lower Interest Rates


Potentially lower interest rates are unlikely to materially shift the U.S. fiscal problems.

“We are expecting interest rates to come down, but bringing inflation back to target is going to take a little longer,” Gopinath said.

Addressing a question on the possibility of interest rates returning to pre-pandemic levels, Gopinath's response was clear: “That doesn't seem to be the case.”

Yields on the 2-year Treasury note, often seen as a barometer for Federal Reserve rate moves, hit the 5% mark on Friday, reaching peaks not seen since mid-November 2023, and reflecting a dramatic shift in investor expectations regarding future Fed rate cuts.

Meanwhile, the market performance of U.S. Treasury bonds has been negative this year. Notably, the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT has witnessed a 9% retreat since the year began.

Read now: Small Group Of Hedge Funds Wields Dominance In US Treasury Market: ‘A Concentration Of Vulnerability Has Built Up,’ IMF Warns

Image generated using artificial intelligence via Midjourney.

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