Posts Tagged ‘standard



06
Aug
11

‘the meltdown’s true villain’

Wikipedia

Michael Tomasky (The Daily Beast): With a double-dip recession looming and attacks on Obama mounting, it’s amazing the GOP is still setting the U.S. agenda when its own George W. Bush ran up half the debt we’ve accumulated since Reagan.
… Every time I step back and ponder this sordid history, I am amazed that the Republican Party has any credibility..

The Boston Globe ran a chart last Sunday that I’d buy billboard space to reproduce in every decent-size city in America:

The premise of it was very simple: It showed how many trillions each president since Ronald Reagan has added to the nation’s debt. The debt was about $1 trillion when Reagan took office, and then: Reagan, $1.9 trillion; George H.W. Bush, $1.5 trillion (in just four years); Bill Clinton, $1.4 trillion; Obama, $2.4 trillion.

Oh, wait. I skipped someone. George W. Bush ran up $6.4 trillion. That’s nearly half – 44.7 percent – of the $14.3 trillion total. We all know what did it – two massive tax cuts geared toward the rich (along with other similar measures, like slashing the capital gains and inheritance taxes), the off-the-books wars, the unfunded Medicare expansion, and so on. But the number is staggering and worth dwelling on. In a history covering 30 years, nearly half the debt was run up in eight. Even the allegedly socialist Obama at his most allegedly wanton doesn’t compare to Dubya…

In percentage terms, the case is even more open and shut. This table tells the sad tale (see table at the top of the post)…

The percentages in question here are debt as a chunk of the GDP … Reagan raised it 20 points, to 53 percent from 33 percent. Bush Sr. a gaudy 13 points more. Clinton lowered it by 10 points, back down to 56 percent. Bush Jr.? Up 28 points, to 82 percent of GDP. Obama has raised it nine points. Once again: In a 30-year increase from 32 percent to 93 percent of 61 points, nearly half, 28 points or 46 percent, happened under Bush.

…. I can only laugh when I hear Tea Party conservatives avow today that they have no love for Bush. It is truly an incredible record when you stack it up. First, the party fought tooth and nail against every single move Clinton made that ended up putting us in surplus. Then it got power – and let’s not get into how that happened – and ran up completely unprecedented debts and deficits. Then it put the foxes in command of the henhouses at the SEC and OTC and brought the world to the very brink of total economic collapse.

Then a guy from the other party got back in, tried to do what the vast majority of economists would say should be done in such a situation (the government should spend money while the private sector couldn’t), and they fought him tooth and nail. And now they’ve forced him into a deal (which he should not have agreed to) that will help ensure that the economy remains stuck in neutral until, oh, November 2012, to pick a date out of the air. Next, that guy will identify tax cuts to spur job growth, and they will invent reasons to oppose these measures, just as they once invented reasons why “deficits don’t matter”.

Full article here

06
Aug
11

saturday – the downgrade

First, the President’s weekly address:

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Zachary Karabell (The Daily Beast): Math-challenged and politically-driven, S&P’s Friday night credit demotion puts the ratings agency on par with the Tea Party. Zachary Karabell on why that’s dangerous.

…. Let’s be clear: Congress and the White House did not cover themselves with glory during the debt debate throughout July. The United States has a stalled economy and a large amount of debt. But on so many levels, this downgrade is absurd.

…. there is the question of math. When S&P informed the White House of its intention to downgrade on Friday afternoon, the Treasury Department took issue with S&P’s math and claimed that their assessment of the trends of the U.S. debt burden and its ratio to GDP was off by trillions of dollars. No matter. After a brief review, the wizards at S&P went ahead and removed an A.

… I have no criticism of an academic theory about how nations function economically. But when debatable theories become the underpinnings of decisions by unelected individuals who run organizations with significant sway (sway ceded to them by governments throughout the 20th century), then we have a problem …. drawing on theories about the “right” level of debt puts S&P in a strange bedfellow alliance with the Tea Party.

The people who run the ratings agencies are welcome to their analysis, as is the Tea Party. But if Rogoff and Reinhart or the Tea Party announced that they were downgrading U.S. sovereign debt, they would be laughed for their audacity. Yet when it is one of the anointed ratings agencies, there is this sudden need to genuflect.

… The company assailed the Washington culture of “brinkmanship” so in display during the debt ceiling fiasco, and used that as the primary reason to take us down a notch. Excuse me, but since when is a pristine political process a key ingredient to good credit? Are we supposed to have civil politics in order to maintain the rating?

…. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the political process has yet impeded the ability of the United States to meet its debt obligations, even with the debt ceiling brinkmanship….

Finally, as a symbol that the United States is sliding off the rails, the downgrade is potent … the actions of S&P are part of problem and not just an independent verification that one exists.

These agencies have been elevated to heights that should not ascend; they have been chronically wrong and late in the past; and their rationale for a downgrade sounds more like a prim distaste for a dysfunctional political process that a reasoned assessment of the ability of the United States to discharge its obligations. No defense can be offered of our current political system or near-term economic prospects. But S&P – already on overreach as “neutral” judge of American creditworthiness – has no special standing to rule on the political system, and using that as a cudgel to prove their own power is a destructive act.

Full post here

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Politicususa: … Reality denying Republicans have already tried to shift the blame to Obama for the debt downgrade, but it is important to state the obvious. If Republicans would have passed a clean debt ceiling extension, the downgrade would have never happened. The GOP’s political recipe for bringing Obama down of one part chaos and one part obstruction was never going to allow that to happen. Many Republicans wanted the debt downgrade because it plays into their political strategy for 2012.

Whether or not S&P’s numbers are off, and with Standard and Poor’s track record they very well could be, the political point can’t be ignored. S&P downgraded our debt because our political leaders can’t agree on anything….

… The S&P can be described as a troubled and flawed organization at best. They took a justified beating from Democrats for their role in helping to cause the financial crash of 2008. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the people at S&P saw this as a chance for a bit of reputation enhancement and political payback.

In economic terms, S&P is one of three ratings agencies. As long as the other two agencies keep the US rating at AAA there should be little impact from S&P’s decision. The biggest impact will be likely felt politically, not economically.

Republicans can try to blame Obama all they want, but they the ones who ginned up a crisis out of thin air, and they are party that has forced the United States of America’s debt to be downgraded for the first time in this nation’s glorious history.

The message to Obama and the Democrats is simple. They can’t fix this. Republicans are hell bent on making sure that the economy doesn’t recover. This reality leaves Democrats with two choices. They can either battle with the Republicans thus adding to the gridlock that is trashing the economy, or they can compromise and flush the economy down the drain.

It is a lose-lose situation that has no hope of improving unless the voters wake up and remove the Republicans from the House majority in 2012. Until then the American people are going to force fed a buffet of embarrassment, humiliation, and failure prepared by the master chefs of economic destruction in the Republican Party.

Eat up America. This is government that you voted for in 2010.

Full article here

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Krugman

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Steve Benen: Before we get into Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade United States debt, it’s worth appreciating the events that immediately preceded the announcement.

Officials from Standard & Poor’s provided documents to the Treasury Department, explaining the downgrade. Obama administration officials noticed a problem: the S&P numbers didn’t add up:

…..A Treasury staff member noticed the $2 trillion mistake within the hour, according to a department official. The Treasury called the company and explained the problem. About an hour later, the company conceded the problem but did not indicate how it planned to proceed, the official said. Hours later, S.& P. issued a revised release with new numbers but the same conclusion.

Got that? S&P prepared an analysis to justify a specific conclusion. The analysis was off by $2 trillion. Treasury explained to S&P that the analysis wasn’t even close to being accurate, which led the ratings agency to concede they’d made a mistake.

And a few hours later, S&P decided to reach the same conclusion anyway. The agency wanted to proceed with a downgrade; whether its numbers added up was irrelevant.

That certainly inspires confidence in the integrity of Standard & Poor’s decision making, doesn’t it?

I’m reminded of something Joe Klein said in April, after S&P first started making threats about this.

….. Hey, weren’t you the same guys who gave AAA ratings to the repackaged subprime mortgage-backed securities that, in truth, were utter dreck? And didn’t that help cause the 2008 economic collapse? And didn’t subsequent accounts reveal that you were in bed with the banks whose products you were supposed to be rating? I mean, you guys are still in business? Amazing.

Full post here

05
Aug
11

downgraded

Paul Krugman: OK, so Standard and Poors has gone ahead with the threatened downgrade. It’s a strange situation.

On one hand, there is a case to be made that the madness of the right has made America a fundamentally unsound nation. And yes, it is the madness of the right: if not for the extremism of anti-tax Republicans, we would have no trouble reaching an agreement that would ensure long-run solvency.

On the other hand, it’s hard to think of anyone less qualified to pass judgment on America than the rating agencies. The people who rated subprime-backed securities are now declaring that they are the judges of fiscal policy? Really?

Just to make it perfect, it turns out that S&P got the math wrong by $2 trillion, and after much discussion conceded the point – then went ahead with the downgrade.

More than that, everything I’ve heard about S&P’s demands suggests that it’s talking nonsense about the US fiscal situation. The agency has suggested that the downgrade depended on the size of agreed deficit reduction over the next decade, with $4 trillion apparently the magic number. Yet US solvency depends hardly at all on what happens in the near or even medium term: an extra trillion in debt adds only a fraction of a percent of GDP to future interest costs, so a couple of trillion more or less barely signifies in the long term. What matters is the longer-term prospect, which in turn mainly depends on health care costs.

So what was S&P even talking about? Presumably they had some theory that restraint now is an indicator of the future – but there’s no good reason to believe that theory, and for sure S&P has no authority to make that kind of vague political judgment.

In short, S&P is just making stuff up – and after the mortgage debacle, they really don’t have that right.

So this is an outrage – not because America is A-OK, but because these people are in no position to pass judgment.

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I ignore Krugman’s political views, he’s fast becoming the left’s Bachmann (clueless and marginally bonkers), but when he concentrates on an area he actually knows something about (economics) he can, occasionally, be interesting. I’ve read him before going on about Standard and Poors so I reckoned he wouldn’t be impressed with the downgrade news. He’s, eh, not!

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UPI: …. another government official said the White House had told S&P the company’s thinking was “based on flawed math and assumptions.” And S&P acknowledged “its numbers are wrong.”

An administration official told NBC News after the credit rating was lowered, “It’s amateur hour at S&P.”

The official said the administration showed S&P where its computation errors occurred.

Rep. Barney Frank, the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, said on MSNBC the decision was “just a political judgment by a group of incompetents.”

“This is the rating agency that took money from people who were selling junk bonds and told other people to buy it,” Frank said, accusing S&P of overvaluing private debt while consistently undervaluing public debt. They are as responsible for the financial crisis as anybody else. There is zero chance of (the United States) defaulting,” Frank said.

12
May
11

‘why newt must run’

August, 2010 – Arianna bumps in to Newt & Callista Gingrich and Barbara Walters in Amalfi

This is a comically great find by Politicususa (see here) …. hey, 16 years later she’s got her wish!

Why Newt Must Run

by Arianna Huffington (Nov 27, 1995 in The Weekly Standard)

…Running for president would undoubtedly be the biggest gamble of Gingrich’s political career. And there is absolutely no self-interested reason for him to do it. He has said that he would run only if there were a clear moral imperative for him to do so….

….Precisely because Gingrich is right about the moral crisis the country is facing …. there is a moral imperative for him to fill the leadership vacuum and address the growing devastation.

…the Gingrich of November 1996 could be a far different, far more inspiring public figure. Gingrich may be a lightning rod, but he also embodies the revolution like no one else. He is its most articulate, self-confident, and unapologetic voice, and he burns with conviction that America can and will be a better place because of it …. he can rediscover the youthful realization that drove him to dedicate his life to politics in the first place: that at certain critical moments in history, effective leadership is all that stands between a civilization and its collapse.

There are times in life when risking everything is more prudent than protecting what you have. For Gingrich, this could be one of them. And if Gingrich fails to accept the mission, the mission does not go away. The hole in the heart of the Republican revolution remains, waiting for a leader to fill it.

See the full Weekly Standard article here and the Politicususa post here




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