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S&P Downgrades US Rating, Highlights Failure Of Politicians For Solid Agreement

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Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered late Friday its long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’. The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s affirmed its ‘A-1+’ short-term rating on the U.S. In addition, Standard & Poor’s removed both ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed on July 14, 2011, with negative implications.

The agency noted that Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures.

It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options, according to S&P.

S&P said that on Monday it will issue separate releases concerning affected ratings in the funds, government-related entities, financial institutions, insurance, public finance, and structured finance sectors.

“We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process,” S&P said, adding “We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.”

S&P said the lowering of the rating was prompted on the rising public debt burden and their perception of greater policymaking uncertainty.

“Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government’s other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged,” the ratings agency said.

United States Capital
United States Capital

S&P said that “the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently.”

“In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability,” S&Psaid.

“Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a ‘AAA’ rating and with ‘AAA’ rated sovereign peers,” the agency said, adding that, “In our view, the difficulty in framing a consensus on fiscal policy weakens the government’s ability to manage public finances and diverts attention from the debate over how to achieve more balanced and dynamic economic growth in an era of fiscal stringency and private-sector deleveraging (ibid). A new political consensus might (or might not) emerge after the 2012 elections, but we believe that by then, the government debt burden will likely be higher, the needed medium-term fiscal adjustment potentially greater, and the inflection point on the U.S. population’s demographics and other age-related spending drivers closer at hand.”

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