As Predicted, Democrats Blame Tea Party for Downgrade

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said something diametrically opposite that does reflect reality: “The tea party hasn’t destroyed Washington. Washington was destroyed before the tea party got here.”

by Ben Wolfgang
Washington Post
August 8, 2011

While continuing to cast doubt on the credibility of Standard & Poor’s, several Democrats on Sunday said there is an even greater culprit in the downgrade of the nation’s credit rating: the tea party.

“I believe this is, without question, the tea party downgrade,” Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, a day that also saw mounting anxieties in world markets over the downgrade among myriad other economic woes worldwide. Some of the world’s top financial ministers issued a joint statement Sunday night committing themselves to preserve the stability of financial markets and their economies.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, used the exact same phrase in dubbing the credit rating drop the “tea party downgrade,” as Democrats tried to position themselves as reasonable, pragmatic leaders and conservative Republicans as irresponsible ideologues who caused the downgrade by refusing to accept any new taxes.

That’s exactly the kind of blame game that led Standard & Poor’s, one of three key credit-ratings agencies, to strip the U.S. federal government of its AAA status Friday night and reducing it to AA+ for the first time in the nation’s history.

“Congress and the administration are jointly responsible for the conduct of fiscal policy. So, this is not really about either political party,” David Beers, the head of S&P’s government debt-rating unit, said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

In justifying its actions, S&P cited the political gridlock that continues to paralyze Washington. Although Democrats and Republicans eventually came together last week and crafted a compromise bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, S&P decided it wasn’t enough to save the nation’s AAA status, a rating still held by France, Sweden and other countries, and businesses such as Coca-Cola Co. and Microsoft Corp.

“Even with the agreement of Congress and the administration this past week … the underlying debt burden of the U.S. government is rising and will continue to do so most likely over the next decade,” Mr. Beers said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, defended the tea party and said that without the movement, trillions of dollars in spending cuts wouldn’t be possible.

“Thank God they’re here,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever raised the debt ceiling where we tried to actually reduce spending. That’s a good thing, but we’re woefully short,” he said. “The tea party hasn’t destroyed Washington. Washington was destroyed before the tea party got here. The hope is that the tea party and middle-of-the-road people can find common ground to turn this country around before we become Greece.”

Democrats, who also had harsh words for S&P, said there’s enough blame to go around.

Lawrence H. Summers, former director of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council, on Sunday called the agency’s track record “terrible.” He referenced S&P’s highly positive ratings for mortgage-backed securities that tanked in 2008, which many blame for the ongoing economic crisis.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, in his first public comments on the credit downgrade, told CNBC that S&P had shown “terrible judgment.”

“They’ve handled themselves very poorly. And they’ve shown a stunning lack of knowledge about the basic U.S. fiscal budget math,” he said.

Democrats weren’t alone in their stinging critiques of S&P. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Steve Forbes, former Republican presidential candidate and CEO of Forbes Inc., said the downgrade was “outrageous” and “a political move.”

Read Full Article…

US borrowing tops 100% of GDP

AFP
August 4, 2011

US debt shot up $238 billion to reach 100 percent of gross domestic project after the government’s debt ceiling was lifted, Treasury figures showed Wednesday.

Treasury borrowing jumped Tuesday, the data showed, immediately after President Barack Obama signed into law an increase in the debt ceiling as the country’s spending commitments reached a breaking point and it threatened to default on its debt.

The new borrowing took total public debt to $14.58 trillion, over end-2010 GDP of $14.53 trillion, and putting it in a league with highly indebted countries like Italy and Belgium.

Public debt subject to the official debt limit — a slightly tighter definition — was $14.53 trillion as of the end of Tuesday, rising from the previous official cap of $14.29 trillion a day earlier.

Treasury had used extraordinary measures to hold under the $14.29 trillion cap since reaching it on May 16, while politicians battled over it and over addressing the country’s bloating deficit.

The official limit was hiked $400 billion on Tuesday and will be increased in stages over the next 18 months.

The last time US debt topped the size of its annual economy was in 1947 just after World War II. By 1981 it had fallen to 32.5 percent.

Ratings agencies have warned the country to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio quickly or facing losing its coveted AAA debt rating.

Moody’s said Tuesday that the government needed to stabilize the ratio at 73 percent by 2015 “to ensure that the long-run fiscal trajectory remains compatible with a AAA rating.”

Debt will Increase by $7 trillion in 10 Years

Sen. Rand Paul
August 2, 2011

Today Sen. Rand Paul issued an open letter on the subject of the debt ceiling compromise facing the Senate. Below is that letter.

United States Senator, Rand Paul

To paraphrase Senator Jim DeMint: When you’re speeding toward the edge of a cliff, you don’t set the cruise control. You stop the car. The current deal to raise the debt ceiling doesn’t stop us from going over the fiscal cliff. At best, it slows us from going over it at 80 mph to going over it at 60 mph.

This plan never balances. The President called for a “balanced approach.” But the American people are calling for a balanced budget.

This deal does nothing to fix the overreaches of both parties over the past few years: Obamacare, TARP, trillion-dollar wars, runaway entitlement spending. They are all cemented into place with this deal, and their legacy will be trillions of dollars in new debt.

The deal that is pending before us now:

  • Adds at least $7 trillion to our debt over the next 10 years. The deal purports to “cut” $2.1 trillion, but the “cut” is from a baseline that adds $10 trillion to the debt. This deal, even if all targets are met and the Super Committee wields its mandate – results in a BEST case scenario of still adding more than $7 trillion more in debt over the next 10 years. That is sickening.
  • Never, ever balances.
  • The Super Committee’s mandate is to add $7 trillion in new debt. Let’s be clear: $2.1 trillion in reductions off a nearly $10 trillion,10-year debt is still more than $7 trillion in debt. The Super Committee limits the constitutional check of the filibuster by expediting passage of bills with a simple majority. The Super Committee is not precluded from any issue, therefore the filibuster could be rendered most. In addition, the plan harms the possible passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Since the goal is never to balance, having the BBA as a “trigger” ensures that the committee will simply report its $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan and never move to a BBA vote.
  • It cuts too slowly. Even if you believe cutting $2.1 trillion out of $10 trillion is a good compromise, surely we can start cutting quickly, say $200 billion-$300 billion per year, right? Wrong. This plan so badly backloads the alleged savings that the cuts are simply meaningless. Why do we believe that the goal of $2.5 trillion over 10 years (that’s an average of $250 billion per year) will EVER be met if the first two years cuts are $20 billion and $50 billion. There is simply no path in this bill even to the meager savings they are alleging will take place.

Buried in the details of this bill is the automatic debt limit increase proposed a few weeks ago. The second installment of the debt ceiling increase is initiated by the President automatically and can only be stopped by a two-thirds vote of Congress. This shifts the Constitutional check on borrowing from Congress to the President and makes it easier to raise the debt ceiling. Despite claims to the contrary, none of the triggers in this bill include withholding the second limit increase.

Credit rating agencies have clearly stated the type of so-called cuts envisioned in this plan will result in our AAA bond rating being downgraded. Ironically then, the only way to avoid our debt being downgraded and the resulting economic problems that stem from that is for this bill to fail.

This plan does not solve our problem. Not even close. I cannot abide the destruction of our economy, therefore I vigorously oppose this deal and I urge my colleagues and the American people to do the same.

Sincerely,

Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator

Moody’s: No Debt Ceiling, Continue Charade

The Credit Rating Agency founded by Berkshire Hathaway wants the fiscal charade to continue, but does not want limits. And who the heck gave this corporation the right to rate anything? The Bankers.

By Walter Brandimarte
Reuters
July 18

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday suggested the United States should eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders.

The United States is one of the few countries where Congress sets a ceiling on government debt, which creates “periodic uncertainty” over the government’s ability to meet its obligations, Moody’s said in a report.

“We would reduce our assessment of event risk if the government changed its framework for managing government debt to lessen or eliminate that uncertainty,” Moody’s analyst Steven Hess wrote in the report.

The agency last week warned it would cut the United States’ AAA credit rating if the government misses debt payments, increasing pressure on Republicans and the White House to come up with a budget agreement.

Moody’s said it had always considered the risk of a U.S. debt default very low because Congress has regularly raised the debt ceiling during many decades, usually without controversy.

However, the current wide divisions between the House of Representatives and the Obama administration over the debt limit creates a high level of uncertainty and causes us to raise our assessment of event risk,” Hess said.

Stepping further into the heated political debate about U.S. debt problems, Moody’s suggested the government could look at other ways to limit debt.

It cited Chile, widely praised as Latin America’s most fiscally-sound country, as an example.

“Elsewhere, the level of deficits is constrained by a ‘fiscal rule,’ which means the rise in debt is constrained though not technically limited,” Moody’s said, adding that such rule has been effective in Chile.

It also cited the example of the Maastricht criteria in Europe, which determines that the ratio of government debt to GDP should not exceed 60 percent. It noted, however, that such a rule is often breached by the governments.

In the United States, Moody’s said the debt limit had not effectively curbed the rise in government debt because lawmakers regularly raise it and because that limit is not related to the level of expenditures approved by Congress.

The New Global Financial Order Begins in Europe

Banksters agree to force reviews on countries financial operations if  ‘suspect flaws’ arise.

Financial Times

Order out of chaos.  The EU takes more power away from nation-states.

Order out of chaos. The EU takes more power away from nation-states.

European Union finance ministers agreed on Tuesday to new intervention powers for EU officials if member states’ economic statistics are suspected to be flawed.

The measure will allow officials from the EU’s statistical agency Eurostat and the European Commission to conduct “methodological visits”, sending in number crunchers to vet countries’ data if this is deemed necessary.

The intervention powers, however, will only come into play in strictly defined circumstances in which concerns have been flagged. Diplomats cite, for example, the situation in which a country revises its figures at short notice and without a clear explanation for this as a possible case for intervention.

Similar powers have been proposed in the past, but failed to secure the backing of EU member states. However, the data flaws that emerged during the Greek crisis and the new emphasis on tougher economic surveillance in the region, coupled with pressure from European parliamentarians, has persuaded countries to accept the potentially intrusive powers.

The new surveillance measure is one of the most concrete actions expected to come out of Tuesday’s meeting of finance ministers from the 27-country bloc in Luxembourg. They will also discuss economic governance – including a new stability programme for Cyprus and additional budgetary consolidation in Spain and Portugal – as well as proposals, driven by the European Commission, to strengthen financial regulation.

Some of these discussions will pave the way for further debate at the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels next week.

“There’s lots of policy debate ahead of the council meeting and those debates are pretty significant, but no meaty items,” said one diplomat.

On Monday night, Herman Van Rompuy, the EU president, who is heading a special “task force” charged with improving economic governance in the bloc, said he believed “rapid progress” could be made on budgetary and macroeconomic surveillance. Proposals in this area would now be the focus of his interim report to EU leaders next week, he said.

Mr Van Rompuy is also thought to be leaning towards the French idea of some form of “economic government” for the eurozone. French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing this idea, which would involve regular summits of eurozone leaders and give the bloc its own secretariat.

On Monday, finance ministers from the 16 eurozone countries also approved details of the “special purpose vehicle” facility, which could raise up to €440bn and make up the key part of their landmark €750bn stabilisation fund for the eurozone’s most vulnerable members.

The facility, based around a “special purpose vehicle”, which will raise money to be lent to countries in financial distress, will be called the European Financial Stability Facility and is expected to become active this month.

It will be backed by pro rata guarantees from individual member states. These will be for 120 per cent of each bond issue, providing a “cushion” should any individual contributor struggle to meet its share.

Countries will only be able to tap the fund when they have agreed programmes to overhaul their economies.

Finance ministers said they would seek “the best possible” credit rating for bonds or debt securities issued by the EFSF. “The message from finance ministers is that they will do whatever it takes to get an AAA rating on the debt issued by the SPV”, said analysts at JPMorgan on Tuesday .

● Estonia will join the euro from the beginning of 2011 after winning the backing of European finance ministers for the move.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who heads the so-called Eurogroup, said that Estonia had agreed to “ensure the sustainability of convergence by implementing further structural reforms”. Estonia will be the 17th member of the eurozone.