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Puerto Rico’s Debts Are “Not Payable” According to Governor



Puerto Rico's Debts Are

Puerto Rico’s Debts Are “Not Payable” According to Governor

The global economy has been walking a tightrope for some time. Zero interest-rate policies, slow economic growth, and mounting debt means zero room for error.

Puerto Rico is the latest jurisdiction to toss in the towel, with Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla warning that the island is perilously close to falling into a “death spiral”.

“The debt is not payable… there is no other option. This is not politics, this is math,” Garcia Padilla told the New York Times. “But we have to make the economy grow. If not, we will be in a death spiral.”

Puerto Rico, as you can see in the above chart published by the WSJ, has been in a tricky situation for some time. It’s $72 billion of debt for an island of roughly 3.5 million is equal to 70% of economic output. This is a ratio that is at least three times higher than the next highest state or territory in the United States.

The territory, which was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War, has been in trouble for awhile. The population growth rate has slowed, emigration is at record levels, and per-capita GDP has dropped over the last decade. Puerto Rico has relied on debt to try to grow the economy, and now credit-rating companies expect the first default to occur this week from the island’s electricity provider, which borrowed $9 billion. Further, the territory has been issuing new debt to pay old debt, and now the government is expected to run out of cash in July.

The Puerto Rico scenario encapsulates the current challenge that the rest of the world faces. Central Banks have pulled out all the stops to try to get growth: QE, increased borrowing, ZIRP, and ongoing currency wars. However, if that growth doesn’t come at the rate needed to get the ball rolling, it makes the debt harder to service. The more leverage, the higher the stakes are. Then all that is needed is one catalyst and things can get ugly fast.

Speaking of defaults: here’s what will happen if Greece defaults, and here is a breakdown of their debt.

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Central Banks

Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve

Public trust in the Federal Reserve chair has hit its lowest point in 20 years. Get the details in this infographic.



The Briefing

  • Gallup conducts an annual poll to gauge the U.S. public’s trust in the Federal Reserve
  • After rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, public trust has fallen to a 20-year low


Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve

Each year, Gallup conducts a survey of American adults on various economic topics, including the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.

More specifically, respondents are asked how much confidence they have in the current Fed chairman to do or recommend the right thing for the U.S. economy. We’ve visualized these results from 2001 to 2023 to see how confidence levels have changed over time.

Methodology and Results

The data used in this infographic is also listed in the table below. Percentages reflect the share of respondents that have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence.

YearFed chair% Great deal or Fair amount
2023Jerome Powell36%
2022Jerome Powell43%
2021Jerome Powell55%
2020Jerome Powell58%
2019Jerome Powell50%
2018Jerome Powell45%
2017Janet Yellen45%
2016Janet Yellen38%
2015Janet Yellen42%
2014Janet Yellen37%
2013Ben Bernanke42%
2012Ben Bernanke39%
2011Ben Bernanke41%
2010Ben Bernanke44%
2009Ben Bernanke49%
2008Ben Bernanke47%
2007Ben Bernanke50%
2006Ben Bernanke41%
2005Alan Greenspan56%
2004Alan Greenspan61%
2003Alan Greenspan65%
2002Alan Greenspan69%
2001Alan Greenspan74%

Data for 2023 collected April 3-25, with this statement put to respondents: “Please tell me how much confidence you have [in the Fed chair] to recommend the right thing for the economy.”

We can see that trust in the Federal Reserve has fluctuated significantly in recent years.

For example, under Alan Greenspan, trust was initially high due to the relative stability of the economy. The burst of the dotcom bubble—which some attribute to Greenspan’s easy credit policies—resulted in a sharp decline.

On the flip side, public confidence spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was likely due to Jerome Powell’s decisive actions to provide support to the U.S. economy throughout the crisis.

Measures implemented by the Fed include bringing interest rates to near zero, quantitative easing (buying government bonds with newly-printed money), and emergency lending programs to businesses.

Confidence Now on the Decline

After peaking at 58%, those with a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the Fed chair have tumbled to 36%, the lowest number in 20 years.

This is likely due to Powell’s hard stance on fighting post-pandemic inflation, which has involved raising interest rates at an incredible speed. While these rate hikes may be necessary, they also have many adverse effects:

  • Negative impact on the stock market
  • Increases the burden for those with variable-rate debts
  • Makes mortgages and home buying less affordable

Higher rates have also prompted many U.S. tech companies to shrink their workforces, and have been a factor in the regional banking crisis, including the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Gallup (2023)

Data Notes: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-25, 2023, with a random sample of –1,013—adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on this sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. See source for details.

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