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August 08, 2011 9:58 pm MST

Let's assume S&P is "right"

  • by: MADCO

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Pulpit rock

U.S. debt from 1940 to 2010. Red lines indicate the Debt Held by the Public (net public debt) and black lines indicate the Total Public Debt Outstanding (gross public debt), the difference being that the gross debt includes that held by the federal government itself.

The second panel shows the two debt figures as a percentage of U.S. GDP (dollar value of U.S. economic production for that year). The top panel is deflated so every year is in 2010 dollars.

Source:  United States Government

1945  US debt was more than 125% of GDP. No downgrade.

2011 US debt is less than 100% of GDP. Downgrade.

What’s different?

S&P was recently  embarrassed pretty badly by the collapse of Enron, the collapse of the US secondary mortgage market, and other massive defaults and failures (AIG, Lehman, Bear Stearns, Goldman, etc and etc)

Perhaps S&P believes the US will be more willing to default because in 1945 a little more than 97% of the US debt was held by American investors.  2011 it’s a little less than 50% held by Americans.  

Perhaps S&P views the national mood as having a lack of patriotic commitment to honor our commitments. Or at least less of a commitment than the nation had in 1945.

Perhaps S&P realizes that gov’t gridlock is a bad thing.

S&P Seen Surrendering to Tea Party

S&P officials, shrugging off a $2 trillion calculation error, blamed “uncertainty” in the policymaking process on Aug. 5 when they cut the assessment of the U.S. government’s ability to pay its debt, citing Congress’s failure to agree on as much long-term deficit reduction as the credit-rating company wanted. (Warren) Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, said S&P erred and the U.S. should be rated “quadruple-A.”…

Maybe the US gov’t was just more fiscally irresponsible back in the 1940’s. Sure, 1941-1945 we had to fight WWII, but we’ve had to fight the war on terror, including starting in 2003 occupying Iraq and Afghanistan on two seperate fronts.

Maybe..just maybe, this was a political thing.

“Clearly the ratings downgrade was a ‘political decision’ in the sense that the politics explained the timing of this, because the numbers have been irrefutable for a decade,” said Robert Litan, vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri.…

Maybe, in addition to being gridlocked, S&P has come to the logical  conclusion that there are enough  Congressmen that are willing to default or shut the gov’t down, or that believe the way to save anything is to first destroy it.  S&P has indicated if the Boehner/Obama deal had made it, there would not have been a down grade.  But Boehner couldn’t get the jr members of his caucus to go for it.  (I’m surprised his caucus is not trying to replace him for even bringing it up.)

Watch for the  Tea Party ripple effect – how can GM, Ford, Microsoft, Verizon, Exon, WalMart, or any other corporate entity get a “AAA” when the US cannot?  Is the Canadian sovereign debt really safer? Brazil? The British? Any nation in the Euro zone?



62 thoughts on “Let’s assume S&P is “right”

      1. 1-800 TAX CUTS !


        There’s a lot more tax cut where that came from

        Tax cuts in the morning, tax cuts in the afternoon.

        tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts. The real solution, the real way to govern. Gotta have em, all the time, every time

  1. You are showing deficits instead of debt. The difference is that we have been ACCUMULATING debt for the last century, and it is way higher than it was back then. What you are showing is the INCREASE in debt, not the debt itself.

      1. It ain’t defense spending that’s busting this budget. Perhaps if the so-called “stimulus” had actually done anything, the increase in debt would be justified.

            1. You probably still love the smell of the burning flesh of bodies smoldering in a wreckage.  You are one patriotic son-of-a-bitch aren’t you, you fucking Republican warmonger.  Do you really want any war to end?

              1. But that’s kinda over the line, brah. Simmer down a notch? I like you over here, not making finger paintings on the penalty box walls 🙁

                  1. is watching someone else do it. Honestly I don’t even know what this is based on. I remember PC having a seemingly minor dispute with MOTR (that seemed based more on a misunderstanding than anything else) and all of a sudden this. It’s one thing if you two actually had a policy disagreement, but I’ve never actually seen one. I’m honestly curious to know what PC did to get you following her around and insulting her.

                    1. I’m sure there WAS something, but I have to give Ralphie a lot of credit for his memory holding that grudge, because I’ve completely forgotten what in the world happened. Maybe I defended Nancy or something? And MOTR and I get on fine unless she feels differently, can’t even recall any specific disputes with her, truth be told.

                  2. Good to know you’re an equal opportunity attack dog though.

                    Actually I was going to warn PC the other day –  it’s dangerous being nice to someone like me around these here parts. Definitely hurts your lefty street cred. You’re probably a pretty young progressive and you haven’t completed the indocrination yet (although I hear Nancy is trying to whip you into shape). You probably still believe in progressive values, hope, change, unicorns, etc. Your mentors haven’t let you in on the big secret yet – there are no values. You’re supposed to do and say whatever your progressive overlords tell you to do. It’s only about extractring revenge on the evil empire and siphoning off tax dollars from them. Being friends with one of them is detrimental to your progress in lefty circles.

                    1. Where you talking about Denver’s election? Because you posted a diary on February 26, 2011…

                    2. If I haven’t posted here in six months, certainly since before PC was elected, why would anyone think PC was going to promote one of my (non-existent) diaries?

                    3. But believe me hon, I may be a young progressive but I am not new to the Internet. I don’t think it’s cool to get beyond the pale nasty to anyone, and I don’t really care if that makes people mad.

                  1. Gopher Girl? Glum Girl? Good Girl? Graphic Girl?

                    And I knew there must be some reason I was starting to feel friendly to ya 😛 I guess that’s it, if Penry’s mad at ya I can’t hate you too hard.

        1. First some factual data

          2010 Defense spending $685.1 billion

          2010 Federal Budget: $3.55 trillion

          so defense spending is very close to 5% of GDP,

          Pulpit rock

          But what you are really getting at is the idea that the composition of our spending is different.  Good point- I agree.

          So, to humor you and stay focused on spending for now , we could identify the major differences in spending.  

          Your knee jerk reaction to spending “it’s too much” is easy enough to understand. But you do see that when discussing the debt, spending is only 1/2 of the  equation, yes?

          Revenues as a percent of GDP


          So we are a low tax country, and have a decining tax burden as a percentage of GDP.

          But to get back to your composition point –

          1 United States 698,105,000,000

          2 China 114,000,000,000

          3 France 61,285,000,000

          4 United Kingdom 57,424,000,000

          5 Russia 52,586,000,000

          6 Japan 51,420,000,000

          7 Germany 46,848,000,000

          8 Italy 38,303,000,000

          9 Saudi Arabia 39,200,000,000

          10 India 36,030,000,000

          11 Brazil 27,120,000,000

          12 Australia 26,900,000,000

          13 South Korea 26,550,000,000

          14 Spain 25,507,470,000

          15 Turkey 25,000,000,000

          15 Canada 21,800,000,000

          16 Iraq 17,900,000,000

          17 Israel 16,000,000,000

          18 UAE 15,749,000,000

          19 China (Taiwan) 15,000,000,000

          20 Netherlands 11,604,000,000

          USA spends the same as the next 20 countries combined.

          Maybe we do live in a really dangerous world.   Biut the composition argument that says defense doesn’t matter seems …questionable.

          I’m all for a strong enough national defense.  But,  I’m not willing to have an ideological argument about which wars and military actions were “more or less” worth pursuing with someone who neither understands the historical context, nor values the service.  From a budget assessment point of view, the spending matters.  (Not to try and get your head to explode, but you should research  what the founders had to say about a standing military. ONce you do, can I assume you’ll be volunteering?)

          Social Security is self funded.

          So the deficits come from too little revenue, Medicare (including the unfunded Part D prescription benefit).

          How do you propose we limit Medicare spending?

          And  increase revenue?

          1. But yesterday on Meet the Press, Alex Castellano, a Romney consultant, said the way to stimulate the economy and reduce the deficit is (you guessed it) by cutting taxes. Republicans want to control the defeicit by cutting revenue even more and thereby creating an even larger deficit and national debt.

            History has proven them dead wrong twice. Neither President Reagan’s 1981 tax cut legislation or President Bush’s 2002 tax cuts ever stimulated the economy enough to make-up the renevue lost. In fact, in the end President Reagan agreed to “revenue enhancements” (tax increases) because the annual deficit was out of control in part due to the tax cuts and to President Reagan’s 10% increase in defense spending. In short, he decreased revenues, increased spending and then crossed his fingers (supply side economics) in the hope the tax cuts would increase economic activity to the point new tax revenues would make up for both the loss of revenues and the increased spending. It never happened.

            With history staring him the face, Presidnet George W. Bush made the same assumptions Presidnet Reagan did with the same results – decreased revenues and runaway deficits.

            Today, people like Mr. Castellano and House Budget Committee Chariman Paul Ryan are fully prepared to make the same mistake for the third time in thirty years. There is only one conclusion one can draw from their statements and actions. Republicans couldn’t care less about the deficit or debt reduction. Their primary reason for all of this at this point in time is to use this as a cover to destroy the federal government. Deficit reduction and debt control are the last thing on their mind.

              1. He’s proposing something so unique and untested in American democracy – tax cuts !

                Why the hell didn’t anyone else think of it ?

                We should really try it just to see if it works !  It could be our best way out of this mess !

                  1. everything for them boils down to tax cuts, so they can carry the water for the rich, either knowingly (ArapaGOP) or unknowingly (Tea Party).

                    It all comes back to what the rich want, whether or not it makes any economic or budgetary sense at all.

          2. beej is online. Will he have an answer for this? Odds are 5-1 that he won’t, and 100-1 that any answer he gives will actually address these data.

              1. Look at the comments on the front page… you made about three other irrelevant posts after I made my observation. Not to mention that you fulfilled my prediction that you would ignore MADCO’s points.

                1. the page that came up the moment after I submitted my comment had your comment. I then moved on to make other posts on other threads. I fully addressed MADCO’s points, and scored a debate win in the process.

                  1. This isn’t church, so no one is going to take what you say on faith. Blithely dismissing MADCO’s observation that revenues are half the discussion, as well as not giving any ideas for how to raise them, do not address what he said or answer the questions he asked you.

                    1. Dinosaurs and humans did not co exist.

                      Budget deficits are the result of spending and revenue.

                      You rejecting anything demonstrably is useless.

                      Do it enough and you are useless.

                      Do you want to be useless?

          3. Of course this was the plan all along; blow spending through the roof and then blame the taxpayers for not shelling out more money. Obama’s spending was wasteful and unjustified in the first place. The remedy is not to support the problem by forking over more of our money; the revenue is to stop pissing money down the drain.

            As far as taxes, we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, which drives companies and jobs overseas. I know, I know, and I agree, close the loopholes. If we want to be like the rest of the world, then we can raise taxes on the 50% of us who don’t pay any. But given that Obama is pushing for a payroll tax cut, I don’t think anyone is in favor of raising taxes on the middle class right now.

            The deficits come from too much spending, period. We don’t even have to touch social security, medicare, or medicaid, to make big changes right now. Freeze spending, remove the stimulus from the baseline (it was supposed to be temporary, remember?), and repeal Obamacare. That right there would go a long way toward balancing the budget.

            And one other thing, before you start the caterwauling about cuts and trotting out victims, you should realize that we’re all paying for this one way or another. Higher gas and food prices due to inflation disproportionately affect the poor.

            1. But while the US has the 2nd-highest corporate tax rate (35%), US corporations don’t pay anywhere near the highest tax rate among the world’s leading economic countries – our tax code has more holes than a sieve.

              If you figure out actual corporate income tax payments, the US is only average or below average.  If you measure them as a percentage of GDP, we’re actually 2nd lowest.  And that doesn’t count VAT, which companies overseas have to pay and we don’t.

  2. Regardless of bond rating, the market was going to correct. You can’t base society on debt,welfare,redistribution,smoke and mirrors,Goldman Sachs,bombs,destruction,inflation,funny money etc…

    Somewhere in the equation production must be included.

    1. I don’t care about “the markets” at present.  May never again.

      Dow 10,000!! yawn

      Interest rates –  I care.

      i > inflation > cost of living and standard of living.  I care.

  3. why wouldn’t you assume S&P is correct?

    As noted, the last time we had this kind of debt structure was right around the end of WWII.  As also noted our reaction to that debt, as reflected by the tax structure at that time, was markedly different — so as to pay that debt.  This ain’t 1945, and our rating probably ought to reflect that our approach to the issue is markedly different (i.e., preposterous), don’t you think?

    One additional point — our corporations GM, Ford, Microsoft, Verizon, etc., etc. will not see a per se change in their rating because the U.S. rating has been downgraded — apples and hand grenades.  These entities still have the same (much better) balance sheets and cash flows than Uncle Sam.  Their rating will not be impacted.  What will be impacted is their future cost of borrowing because with the US now in the market borrowing (demanding funds with their lower rating at higher rates), it will force (allow?) the market to charge higher rates to everyone else — not just the corporations, but you and me and your realtives and your neighbors and even the Beej (and probably MarkG — once he finally turns 18).  That will be the direct result of this downgrading — higher interest costs for everything.  All other things being equal, the ratings of the individual and corporate borrowers will remain unaffected.

    (This, of course assumes, that their employment and income situations remain unaffected — which it will not.  But, the point remains, it is not simply the downgrading of the US debt that will have a direct impact on the ratings of its citizens and corporations.)

    1. T-bills are auctioned and traded. There’s no set price. If the S&P downgrade meant anything, then people should be fleeing T-bills for cash or something else. That would drive the bond price down and the yield up. However, yields have been falling. Thus (so far), the market doesn’t seem to care what S&P says.

      Austerity measures in the U.S. and Europe mean that governments aren’t going to prop up an economy sliding into recession. Investors see that and flee to safe havens. Stocks tank.

      What am I missing?

      1. when you’re going down in the North Atlantic, a leaking lifeboat is generally preferred to being shipboard, but I’m just guessing . . . these are also very muddied waters right now (mixed metaphors intended).

  4. Madco,

    Today’s debt and deficit are different than yesteryears debt and deficit. Today’s debt will end up in the trash can ( i.e. T.V, R.V. DVD, etc.). Yesteryears debt was for capital investment.

    Would you want to own your neighbors debt?

    1. and tanks and battleships and munitions are not really considered productive capital investments . . . sorry, didn’t mean to get facty . . . blither on . . .

      1. Fine. We agree. Breaking stuff, whether it be by the military, DEA or mother nature is never a productive endeavor. See Broken Window Theory for more explanation.

        Maybe the bond rating companys are getting smarter or should I say, less in bed with gov?

        A further dowgrade is in order till we rectify our spending addiction.

    2. Agree.

      If you want to have a substantive discussion about that composition – I’m in.

      If you want to throw out irrelevant one-liners and straw men, I’m out.   That means no cadillac driving welfare queens living public housing. INstead  explain how the ag industry determines what food stamps can buy, and how the ag industry uses the food stamp program as a giant subsidy.

      Depending on your district, explain why your Congressman supports ag subisdies, the personal  mortgage interest deduction, other personal  deductions, and two unfunded* wars.

      * noworse than unfunded -we cut taxes as we were going to war.

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