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The US Treasury’s Bond Blunder Will Cost Gen Z Dearly

Rather than issuing 50- or 100-year bonds when interest rates were at rock-bottom, the US Treasury dismissed this option and simply continued to borrow on a short-term basis. Now that US interest payments are ballooning, the scale of this blunder has become apparent, as have the implications for future generations.

SAN DIEGO – A controversial new book by psychologist Jonathan Haidt laments The Anxious Generation. The number of sleep-deprived high schoolers has climbed 13% in the United States, and young people do indeed have reasons to be jittery. While Haidt blames social media, members of Gen Z must also worry about the irresponsible debt levels that Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y (Millennials) are foisting onto their narrow shoulders.

As a proportion of GDP, US debt is rapidly shooting past the record levels of World War II. Interest payments this year will eat up 13.5% of the federal budget, a 2.6-fold increase from 2021. Half of young adults don’t think they will ever afford a home, yet they will be asked to pay for their grandparents’ profligacy. Even now, CNBC reports that one-quarter of Gen Z say they need a therapist to deal with tax-filing anxiety.

A dozen years ago – when rock-bottom interest rates prevailed – some of us started urging the US Treasury to lock in those favorable borrowing terms by issuing superlong 50- and 100-year bonds. That would have helped to prevent today’s spending from crippling future generations. But the Treasury mostly stuck to short-term borrowing, with the average duration of bonds at just five years. As a result, it is rolling over maturing debt at a steeper cost.