Fed Chairman Powell says he is ‘very worried’ about growing amount of U.S. debt

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is “very worried” about the ballooning amount of United States debt.

“I’m very worried about it,” Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “From the Fed’s standpoint, we’re really looking at a business cycle length: that’s our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, non-sustainability of the U.S. federal government isn’t really something that plays into the medium-term that is relevant for our policy decisions.”

However, “it’s a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face,” he added.

The Fed chief’s comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations. Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth like now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits.

Total U.S. debt is about $21.9 trillion, of which $16 trillion is owed by the public. In part because of continued rate increases under Powell, the interest cost on that debt could start to become a bigger and bigger burden.

Fitch Ratings — one of the top credit rating agencies that analyzes companies and governments alike — said on Wednesday that the ongoing government shutdown could soon start to impact its ability to pass a budget and could impact the government’s triple-A sovereign score.

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