With the possible exception of the New York Times' editorial board (and the cast of The Jersey Shore), everyone on the planet understood that the United States Government needs to cut spending, increase taxes, or both. Instead, after months of political posturing and hand wringing, the Federal Government has just delivered the exact opposite, a deal that increases spending and decreases taxes. The move lays bare the emptiness of budget legislation, which can be dismantled far easier than it can be constructed.
One question that should be now asked is whether Moody's Research will finally join S&P in downgrading the Treasury debt of the United States. After the Budget Control Act of 2011 (which resulted from the Debt Ceiling drama) Moody's extended its Aaa rating, saying in an August 8 statement:
"...last week's Budget Control Act was positive for the credit of the United States.... We expect the economic recovery will continue and additional budget deficit reduction initiatives will be put in place by 2013. The political parties now appear to share similar deficit reduction objectives."
Now that Moody's has been proven wrong, and the straight jacket that Congress designed for itself has been shown to be illusory (as I always claimed it was), will the rating agency revisit its decision and downgrade the United States? Given the political backlash that greeted S&P's downgrade in 2011, I doubt that such a move is forthcoming.
For now, the real budget negotiations have been supposedly pushed later into 2013, when the debt ceiling will be confronted anew. But who can really expect anything of substance? The latest deal emerged from a Congress that is nearly two years removed from the next election. As a result, Congressmen were as insulated from political pressures as they could ever expect to be. Nevertheless, they still chose political expediency over sound policy. If Congressional leadership (an oxymoron that should join the ranks of "jumbo shrimp" and "definite maybe") could not put the national interest in front of political interests now, why would anyone expect them to do so later? They will continue to ignore our fiscal problems until a currency crisis forces their hand. I expect deficits to approach $2 trillion annually before Obama leaves office. Unfortunately, at that point the solutions would be far more draconian than anything economists and politicians are currently considering.
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