The stock market is in freefall once again, evoking specters of 2008. As one fund manager told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, “the sense of déjà vu is almost sickening.” The storied Dow lost more than 600 points Monday following huge declines late last week, appeared to get its footing yesterday, then plunged more than 500 points today. All over the world, markets are taking stock, so to speak, of the burgeoning debt crisis in the United States and Europe, and fearing the worst.
With gold bouncing up from $1,668 an ounce on Friday, August 5 to $1,778 on Tuesday, August 9, it was the biggest three-day rally since the start of the great recession in 2008. At the same time, the equities markets were falling precipitously, losing over 600 points on the Dow on Monday alone. What is the connection?
On Friday, Standard & Poor's kept its word and downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history — from AAA to AA+. The action came because the debt bill passed last week is not considered stringent enough to stabilize the debt crisis. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (left) has already railed against the credit agency, saying it has shown “terrible judgment” in its decision, but some are using the rating downgrade to call for Geithner’s resignation, a move that Geithner had already been considering. At the behest of President Obama, however, Geithner has decided to stay for now.
Standard and Poor’s was blunt in its assessment of America’s deteriorating financial condition when it announced Friday night that it was cutting its credit rating on United States’ Treasury securities from AAA to the second-tier AA+, with a negative outlook.
Moody’s announcement on Tuesday that it would retain its AAA rating of U.S. government sovereign debt as a result of the debt-limit agreement came with a warning: The government must rein in spending or risk a downgrade anyway. The deal “virtually eliminated the risk of [a] default,” but the agency warned that “Should the new mechanism put in place by the Budget Control Act prove ineffective, this could affect the rating negatively.” Moody’s added that it wanted to see the United States lower its debt-to-GDP ratio, now approaching 100 percent, to around 73 percent by 2015, and then gradually move the ratio lower.
The compromise bill that emerged Sunday night from behind closed doors is being loudly trumpeted in an attempt to persuade recalcitrant conservatives in both houses to vote for something — anything — in time to avoid the August 2 deadline.
Claiming that presidential candidate Ron Paul leads the “economic suicide wing” of the Republican Party, Brent Budowsky, writing for The Hill, says that Paul is the “worst possible role model” for Republicans because he suggested that a default by the government “would be OK.” Budowsky calls Paul a “Banana Republican,” claiming that Paul is taking an extremist position, adding that keeping the debt ceiling in place and putting the government on a diet would “literally crash American and global markets … that would do grave damage to our nation.”
According to no less a source than Forbes magazine, a U.S. default is no longer a question of if. It’s when. In a July 23 article, Forbes’ Addison Wiggin warned readers not to get caught holding U.S. dollars when the United States government defaults — again.
According to President Barack Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, long regarded as a free-spending President, was actually “fiscally conservative.” What’s more, said Obama, Roosevelt’s “austerity” hampered the economic recovery being wrought by the New Deal, leading to a downturn in 1937 — a warning to leaders who think now is the time to begin slashing federal spending.
When Standard and Poor’s moved up their timeframe for a downgrade on U.S. sovereign debt from three to five years to just 90 days, Dave Beers, Director of the Sovereign Debt Division explained that the rating of U.S. debt is not on the verge of falling because the debt ceiling debate in Congress hasn't been resolved: