Even as Congress looks for ways to expand President Obama’s $819-billion stimulus package, the rest of the world is wondering how Washington will pay for it all.
Few people attending the World Economic Forum question the need to kick-start America’s economy, the world’s largest, with a package that could reach $1 trillion over two years. But the long-term fallout from increased borrowing by the United Stated government, and its potential to drive up inflation and interest rates around the world, seems to getting more attention here than in Washington.
“The US needs to show some proof they have a plan to get out of the fiscal problem,” said Ernesto Zedillo, the former Mexican president who helped steer his country through a financial crisis in 1994.
Zedillo said US, unlike most other countries, had the option of simply printing more money, because the dollar was a reserve currency for the rest of the world.
Over the long run, that could force long-term interest rates higher and drive down the value of the dollar, undermining the benefits that come with its special status.
While the dollar’s status as refuge in a time of turmoil should prevent that kind of sell-off for now, a number of financial specialists warned that if fundamental factors like the lack of American savings and bloated budget deficits did not change, the dollar could eventually fall sharply.