In the Red

Debt through the ages

  • Congress has raised the debt ceiling, the government's borrowing limit, 10 times in the past decade. Yet we'll hit the $14.3 trillion cap again as early as mid-May. That has Washington talking austerity. The nation's debt has soared since the financial crisis, but about a third of the government's IOUs are to itself. In fact, obligations to the Social Security and other government-run trust funds for about half the overall rise since 1995. That's real debt too, but unlike bonds held by China and others, it's one we can--and should--renegotiate with ourselves.


    Bye-Bye, N.Y.

    Stock exchanges need to go international

    When NYSE Euronext, the U.S.'s largest exchange, rejected an early-April $11.3 billion takeover bid led by Nasdaq, Robert Greifeld, Nasdaq's CEO, said NYSE executives were "depriving shareholders" of a better deal. Those executives stuck with a $9.7 billion offer from German exchange Deutsche Borse, saying a cross-continent exchange would attract companies from around the world, particularly in Asia. Greifeld said shareholders should decide.

    The fight over NYSE has to do with a dearth of new listings. Nasdaq's solution is to upgrade technology and create a larger U.S. exchange. But NYSE needs to shift its focus from New York to Beijing and elsewhere. In 1990, 27% of the world's initial public offerings came from the U.S. Last year that percentage was 9%, and China's share had leaped to 32%, according to Dealogic. The trend, as they say on Wall Street, is your friend.