Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Moody’s anticipates U.S. credit downgrade following fiscal cliff deal

Here’s the latest from the Moody’s web site.

Excerpt:

Moody’s Investors Service said that the fiscal package passed by both houses of Congress yesterday is a further step in clarifying the medium-term deficit and debt trajectory of the federal government. It does not, however, provide a basis for a meaningful improvement in the government’s debt ratios over the medium term. The rating agency expects that further fiscal measures are likely to be taken in coming months that would result in lower future budget deficits, which are necessary if the negative outlook on the government’s bond rating is to be returned to stable. On the other hand, lack of further deficit reduction measures could affect the rating negatively. Notably, yesterday’s package does not address the federal government’s statutory debt limit, which was reached on December 31. The need to raise the debt limit may affect the outcome of future budget negotiations.

[...]The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the net increase in budget deficits from the fiscal package when compared to its baseline scenario (which assumes taxes on all income levels would increase) is about $4 trillion over the coming decade, excluding higher interest costs on the resultant higher debt. Based on that estimate, a preliminary calculation by Moody’s shows that the ratio of government debt to GDP would peak at about 80% in 2014 and then remain in the upper 70 percent range for the remaining years of the coming decade. Stabilization at this level would leave the government less able to deal with future pressures from entitlement spending or from unforeseen shocks. Thus, further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the Aaa rating.

This will not be our first credit rating downgrade, we had one before from Standard and Poor’s in August 2011 and a second one from Egan Jones in April 2012. So this will be the third one in a row during Obama’s borrowing and spending spree.

Would you like to see some graphs showing the impact that the fiscal cliff deal has on our long-term debt? There is a pretty good article on National Review by Yuval Levin that has the charts. The truth is that entitlements are driving our debt, and the fiscal cliff deal does nothing about it.

All Obama seems to be able to do as President is borrow from future generations in order to spend now. When I consider his drug-using years with his “Choom Gang” friends, I’m not sure that he is really qualified to do anything other than borrow and waste money. So far, he’s spent a lot more time using drugs than running businesses in the private sector, it seems to me. Maybe he has an addiction issue with borrowing and spending?

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Do the Boehner and Reid plans address the concerns of credit agencies?

Obama Budget Deficit 2011

Obama Budget Deficit 2011

The Heritage Foundation assesses the new Boehner and Reid plans: can they stop us from getting our credit downgraded?

First, the credit agencies:

The second and even more crucial issue is whether Congress will take necessary action beyond the next year to bring our debt under control over the medium and long-term.  This is where the rating agencies really voice their strong concern. Again, Standard & Poor’s:

Congress and the Administration might also settle for a smaller increase in the debt ceiling, or they might agree to a plan that, while avoiding a near-term default, might not, in our view, materially improve our base case expectation for the future path of the net general government debt-to-GDP ratio.”

Moody’s response is similar:

The outlook assigned at that time to the government bond rating would very likely be changed to negative at the conclusion of the review unless substantial and credible agreement is achieved on a budget that includes long-term deficit reduction. To retain a stable outlook, such an agreement should include a deficit trajectory that leads to stabilization and then decline in the ratios of federal government debt to GDP and debt to revenue beginning within the next few years.

What the rating agencies are saying is that Congress and the President must pass legislation that immediately begins to rein in deficits and bring our debt down to more acceptable levels, and either keeps it there or continues to drive it down further.

Right now, there are two plans on the table, because the Senate rejected Boehner’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan. Do either of these plans address the concerns of the two credit agencies?

The Boehner proposal would cut $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending.  There is no assurance that these cuts will occur, but let’s assume they do.  Let’s even be generous and assume that they are – in the words of S&P– “enacted and maintained throughout the decade.”  This would cut debt held by the public from its projected $24.9 trillion in 2021 to $23.7 trillion, and when measured against the economy from 104% to 99.4%.  Certainly, this is an improvement, but it is hardly declining from today’s levels, nor would these cuts fundamentally restructure entitlements – the real driver of our deficits in the future.

Step two in the Boehner proposal would reduce deficits by an additional $1.8 trillion over ten years.  Even assuming these cuts all happen, and even assuming they were all spending cuts – a broad assumption given the President’s rhetoric surrounding tax hikes on the wealthy – this would bring publicly held debt down to 92% of GDP. Better, but not that much.  Even throwing in interest savings from deficit reduction would bring this down to 88%.  Again, not much improvement and far worse than today’s debt ratio.

The Reid proposal doesn’t move the ball forward enough either.  At best it falls somewhat short of Boehner’s $3 trillion by $800 billion ($1.2 trillion in discretionary and some confusing savings to be had from winding down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan of $1.0 trillion.)

Neither of this week’s dueling debt ceiling proposals would pass the test from Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s for a credible, firm and actionable plan that would turn the tide of our deficits to put our debt on a manageable track. And if that holds true, then a downgrade by the rating agencies could occur smack in the very election year the President is trying to scoot through.

[...]The fact is, the only plan that could likely pass muster with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s is House passed, Cut, Cap and Balance.  Why?  They tackle spending with firm caps that are enforceable, and before the end of the decade bring spending down to 19.9% of GDP and keep it there.

My guess right now is that Obama is going to sign the Boehner plan into law. He has no choice, Boehner pwnd him in the deal negotiations. Obama is going to have to yield, or all the blame for the default will go on HIS shoulders. As much as I like the new Boehner plan, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop our debt rating from being downgraded. We needed to pass the Cut, Cap and Balance plan, but the Democrats rejected it. Think of that when interest rates shoot up. A debt downgrade is going to cause WIDE-RANGING repercussions in the lives of ordinary working families.

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