$2 Trillion Debt Crisis Threatens 100 U.S. Cities



In a new article in the London Guardian, “$2 Trillion Debt Crisis Threatens to Bring Down 100 U.S. Cities,” Elena Moya reports that “Overdrawn American cities could face financial collapse in 2011, defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowings and derailing the U.S. economic recovery. Nor are European cities safe—Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Venice: all are in trouble.” Here is an except:

More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark a municipal meltdown, a leading analyst has warned.

Meredith Whitney, the US research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the US economy, and one that could derail its recovery.

“Next to housing this is the single most important issue in the US and certainly the biggest threat to the US economy,” Whitney told the CBS 60 Minutes programme on Sunday night.

“There’s not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see fifty to a hundred sizeable defaults—more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of defaults.”

New Jersey governor Chris Christie summarised the problem succinctly: “We spent too much on everything. We spent money we didn’t have. We borrowed money just crazily. The credit card’s maxed out, and it’s over. We now have to get to the business of climbing out of the hole. We’ve been digging it for a decade or more. We’ve got to climb now, and a climb is harder.”

American cities and states have debts in total of as much as $2tn. In Europe, local and regional government borrowing is expected to reach a historical peak of nearly €1.3tn (£1.1tn) this year.

Cities from Detroit to Madrid are struggling to pay creditors, including providers of basic services such as street cleaning. Last week, Moody’s ratings agency warned about a possible downgrade for the cities of Florence and Barcelona and cut the rating of the Basque country in northern Spain. Lisbon was downgraded by rival agency Standard & Poor’s earlier this year, while the borrowings of Naples and Budapest are on the brink of junk status. Istanbul’s debt has already been downgraded to junk. . . .

Please also see the following Independent Institute books on the need to privatize and marketize cities and urban services:

The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society, edited by David T. Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander T. Tabarrok

Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis, edited by Randall G. Holcombe and Benjamin Powell

Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads, edited by Gabriel Roth

Property Rights: Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings Re-Examined, edited by Bruce Benson

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice, by Bruce L. Benson

Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools? New Strategies for Educational Excellence, by Richard K. Vedder

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