S&P Is Not the Problem

by: Ray

I had made a prediction last year, found here, that US Treasuries would be put on negative watch by Fitch and downgraded to junk by China. Well, I was wrong as it was S&P who made the call and actually did downgrade the US to AA+ which is still a joke as the government will never be able to actually repay much of the $14T it has outstanding without just printing money, which IS a form of default. China is now saber rattling about the US dollar again, but this time they are serious, I think at least, asking for a new reserve currency and I think they will get what they want as other countries have raised the same concerns.

The US deserved to be downgraded and we should be downgraded much further than AA+ as we will not get serious about debt reduction. To prove my point all we have to do is look at how the debate is structured. The politicians are all talking about annual deficits and NOT the outstanding debt load. They do all sorts of double talk to make sure the average person only believes we have a trillion or so in outstanding debt, but that trillion is just the annual deficit and no one talks about the big number of $14T in outstanding current liabilities. S&P gets it and that is why they are the first one to downgrade the US.

When the downgrade happened the Treasury Department acted quickly calling the move unjustified, political, terrible lapse of judgment, S&P made a mistake, and these are the same people who rated junk bonds AAA to begin with. While it is easy to criticize S&P for their prior actions, relative to its sovereign debt ratings, those arguments hold no water and anyone with a stitch of unbiased rationale realizes that the US is indeed in big trouble and we do not deserve a AAA rating. The worst part about this downgrade is the fact that the government is now baring down on S&P about this downgrade.

It was just announced that the Senate Banking Committee will be looking into the downgrade. While we do not know if hearings will happen or not, the person close to the matter did say all options are on the table. I was under the impression that Congress wanted independent ratings agencies along with an independent Federal Reserve. Silly me, I guess as the minute a ratings agency does the right thing they try to crush it with Senate investigations, but the Federal Reserve can monetize trillions in US debt without Congress blinking an eye, unreal.

What Congress is saying is, be independent as long as you do what we say and want and if you decide to think for yourself, well, we will hunt you down and skin you alive. The government is acting very much like the old Soviet Union and is sending a message, not matter what we do keep us rated AAA. How can a ratings agency offer an independent review of a security if the government demands that it gets what it wants regardless of what the facts are? It is insane to think that the ratings agencies will remain independent if Congress has investigations if the US is downgraded. Frankly, this is extortion, blackmail or a combination of the two since the government is the one who issues S&P with its ratings license. Will S&P lose its license over this? I do not know, but it is possible and shameful if that is what happens.

As an American you should be angry over the downgrade, but not at S&P. You should be angry at the people who rubber stamp every bill that comes along, wasting billions of dollars. You should be angry at their inability to work with each other and address the seriously obvious structural issues that will consume immense amounts of capital in the coming years. You should be angry that the Senate wants to investigate S&P while saying other quasi government agencies are left alone even though they are part of the problem. You should be angry that Alan Greenspan, Mishkin, Bernanke and every other clown out there says the US will never default because we can print our own money to pay the debt.

You should NOT be mad at S&P and you should demand that Congress work on real problems because their lack of dealing with those problems is exactly why S&P downgraded them to begin with. We are not showing the world that we are capable of fixing any real problems. What we are showing the world is that if we do not get our way we will simply create problems were none exist and threaten the “trouble maker” with depriving them of their livelihood or by throwing them in jail. Way to go America.