WASHINGTON—The Chinese government has reached out to the Obama administration with a proposal to buy the country’s debt of more than $17 trillion if the government would take about $5 trillion for it.
“We are offering the U.S. government an opportunity to get our from under its heavy debt load, restructure its finances, and move on to a new period of prosperity,” said China’s Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei. “We say at the outset that we cannot offer less than this discount of 70 percent, because the American government has threatened to default several times in the last three years.”
Lou said the Chinese government would also require that all American companies doing business in China work in partnership with Chinese companies, which would include the sharing of proprietary trade and technological intelligence. “Of course, the prohibition on Chinese companies sharing trade and technological intelligence with American partners would remain in place, as it must,” said Lou.
U.S. Treasury Secretary James Lew said he is looking closely at the offer, but unless the Chinese sweeten the deal, the proposal will likely go nowhere. “We certainly want to rid ourselves of this debt, and if the Chinese people want to buy it, that’s great,” Lew said in a statement. “But 30 cents on the dollar is surely a non-starter. Yes, the U.S. government has a lot of debt, and yes, it’s a headache getting the debt ceiling raised every six months to pay our bills. But the United States remains the world’s largest economy, the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and our companies are producing more goods and services today than ever before. To sell our debt at such a steep discount, particularly when the Chinese government is tying technology transfer to it, is a no-go, I can tell you right now.”
Lou Jiwei said President Xi Jinping is studying Lew’s initial response. “We are listening carefully to the Administration’s concerns and we are eager to discuss them in more detail,” he said. “President Xi has contacted President Obama with an offer to meet on the deal, and we await the President’s response.”
Should China buy the debt, among the obligations it would assume are $42 billion in Treasury Notes to pay for food stamps for America’s poor, $143 billion for 425 F-15 advanced fighter jets, and $43 billion for two Nimitz-class aircraft carriers that are deployed in the Persian Gulf, protecting international sea lanes. One of the vessels needs a new navigation system.
Lou says the Chinese government is a little concerned about a $3 billion debt for 600 million pairs of military shoe strings, which Chinese auditors say is an indication of “gross mismanagement,” since the U.S. government could have gotten the same number of shoe strings for less than $2.5 billion from Chinese manufacturers. “What does this say about U.S. financial management practices?” Lou asked.
Even so, Lou said, “there’s a lot to like in this debt. And we have ways to ensure full payment is made. So, our message to the Administration is, there’s a $5 trillion check waiting for you as soon as tomorrow. We can even deposit it directly into your account. We hope you see the advantage of a debt-free tomorrow.”
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Security experts from around the world say the United States has an edge over North Korea in any kind of military showdown because its clown is more powerful than the other country’s clown, but it would nevertheless be better for the two clowns to find a diplomatic solution to their conflict. “North Korea leader Kim Jong-un is certainly one of the world’s great clowns, but he is not as great a clown as the United States’ leader, Donald Trump,” says Andrew McPearson, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Center for International Security. “The United States remains the world’s largest economy and has the most powerful military. And it has the world’s biggest clown.” The two nations clashed this week after the United Nations passed U.S.-backed sanctions against North Korea for violating the International Nonproliferation Treaty, which seeks to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. In response to the sanctions, Kim Jong-un threatened to take preemptive action against the United States. More.
Americans across the country took delight in watching President-elect Donald Trump give the world’s largest country a poke by speaking on the phone with the president of Taiwan, a breach of diplomatic protocol, and then tweeting snarky statements about China’s trade practices. “It feels good after so many years of watching China eat our lunch to see our president-elect give the country the ol’ Donald Trump treatment,” says Ronald Portman, a retired mechanic in St. Paul, Minn. “Ha ha.” More.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a week-long meeting with Chinese government and business leaders with a request for the Chinese to give back the millions of jobs American businesses shipped to them over the years. “We are not blaming you for taking them,” Kerry said in his departing statement, given at the American embassy in Beijing. “We gave them to you of our own free will, and you were free to take them. But we’d like to have them back now, and so if you wouldn’t mind returning them to us, we would appreciate it.” The United States has transferred some 15 million jobs to Chinese companies since China was granted Most Favored National (MFN) trade status in 1994, when Bill Clinton was president. Since that time, China has grown to have the second largest economy in the world and is on the verge of overtaking the United States in the size of its gross domestic product, although the country would still lag the U.S. in per-capita GDP. More.
Starting in 2020, when U.S. currency is expected to be worthless, a woman will appear on the $10 bill, marking the first time a woman will be depicted on the country’s paper money. “This is an historic milestone for women and for the country,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said at an announcement yesterday. “It’s long past the time when a woman should be honored to be on what was once considered the world’s reserve currency.” Lew said it was simply a trick of fate that a woman would finally appear on U.S. currency at a time when it would be worth a fraction of what it once was. “We were not hoping a woman would appear on our currency when it was worthless,” he said. “It was not our intention.” More.
AKRON, Ohio—Touring a wire coat hanger factory in what was once a blighted industrial area here, President Barack Obama said the United States is returning to its roots as a manufacturing giant and he took a stab at critics who say the country risks losing more manufacturing jobs if a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is passed. “Like this wire coat hanger I have in my hand, the United States is strong,” Obama said, speaking before the 75 employees of the Ace Wire Company. “Anyone who needs evidence that the United States can compete with anyone in the world just needs to look at the factory floor that surrounds me. Every day, more than 10,000 coat hangers are made here and distributed to dry cleaners and hotels throughout the United States and throughout the world. America is back!” More.
BEIJING—China this week released its plan to dominate the world by 2020 and also host a summit on the overfishing of red herring in the South Sea. “This is China’s century and we are determined to assert our interests globally in accordance with our stature as the one true superpower,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a news conference here yesterday. China is the world’s largest country by population, with 1.36 million people, not counting ethnic Uighurs, and the world’s second largest economy, with a gross domestic product of $16.1 trillion. That is about $1 trillion less than the United States, although that gap is expected to close within the next 18 months because of America’s declining productivity and “black president,” the plan says. More.
Saying “it just makes sense,” delegates from around the world overwhelmingly passed a resolution blaming all of the world’s woes on the United States. “Whereas the United States continues to have, albeit barely, the largest economy in the world, and
“Whereas the United States makes a lot of mistakes that everyone in the world knows about, and
“Whereas the United States has been involved in some capacity in all regions of the world for several decades, and
“Whereas the United States is in a state of decline and is clearly failing in all respects,
“We hereby resolve to levy blame for everything that is wrong in the world today on the United States of America. Happy New Year.” The vote was devastatingly lopsided, with delegates from 156 countries voting in favor and only one, the United Kingdom, voting against. Two countries, Canada and Israel, abstained. More.
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After a lifetime of making the lives of his three sons miserable, Ralph Murton got in one more dig by living to 100 while still showing no signs of slowing down. “I know my sons would like nothing more than to finally be rid of me, but if they think I’m going to let them off the hook, they’ve got another thing coming,” says Murton, an engineer who retired from Midwest Pacific Railroad in 1983. Murton says he knows perfectly well his sons think he’s a bastard, a harsh disciplinarian who seemed to enjoy punishing them for the slightest infractions when they were younger, like when Dan, his oldest son, accidentally tore his new jeans when he was in eighth grade. “They used to cringe when I came home from work, wondering if I was going to find something they did wrong,” says Murton. “Usually I did find something, because it’s not hard to find things when you have three sons.” More.
The world’s worst investor says he’s going all-in on California swimming pools, because with the state’s new water meters and water-use restrictions, swimming pools will become the “forbidden fruit” of the moneyed set. “Where does the 1 percent live? In California. What does the 1 percent want? Swimming pools,” says the world’s worst investor. The world’s worst investor says he “took a bath” on his last big investment idea, Texas gun locks. But he thinks he’s backing a winner this time. “You want to go where people are going, only go there sooner,” he says. “Right now, where are people going? They’re going to California to swim.” More.
OTTOWA—Tired of living in the shadow of its much larger southern neighbor, Canada yesterday officially changed its name to Not USA and unveiled a new flag that government officials say is designed to tell the world that Canada is its own country and not simply a northern outpost of the United States. “Not USA has a long and proud history,” says Stephen Harper, prime minister of Not USA, formerly known as Canada. “With our new name and flag, we’re celebrating our unique place in the community of nations. People forget that Not USA defeated the United States in several key battles in the War of 1812 and beat the U.S. in the 2010 winter olympics hockey championship. What’s more, Not USA is the largest country on earth by land mass, has more ice than any other country, and is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup and moose souvenirs.” More.
Saying it’s impossible to be mad when you skip, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for leaders around the world to take up skipping, the “hippity-hoppity” gait that comes so naturally to children. “If you remember the last time you skipped, you will no doubt remember feeling frisky and carefree,” Ban said in a statement released today. The U.N. last week passed a referendum declaring the week of Dec. 18-25 World Skipping Week, which the international organization hopes will inspire people everywhere to skip rather than fight. More.
Don’t expect quick processing of your Social Security check today. Agencies throughout the federal government have closed in response to heavy cloud cover over the city, preventing the sun from shining and threatening rain. “All federal empoyees, with the exception of essential employees and national security personnel, are instructed to stay home during today’s extreme weather event.” Kevin Longley, director of personnel management for the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement today. “We expect federal agencies to resume normal operations tomorrow, although if current conditions persist, we expect to issue a revised update calling for a second day of closure.” More.