Ratings agency warns on US public finances
Moody’s Investor Service, the credit rating agency, will fire a warning shot at the US on Monday, saying that unless the country gets public finances into better shape than the Obama administration projects there would be “downward pressure” on its triple A credit rating.
Examining the administration’s outlook for the federal budget deficit, the agency said: “If such a trajectory were to materialise, there would at some point be downward pressure on the triple A rating of the federal government.”
It projects that the federal borrowing is so high that the interest payments on government debt will grow to more than 15 per cent of government revenues, about the same by the end of the decade as the previous 1980s peak.
This time the servicing burden would be harder to reverse, however, because it would not be caused by high interest rates but by high debt levels.
Pierre Cailleteau, head of sovereign ratings at Moody’s, said: “The size of debt makes the US vulnerable to an interest rate shock . . . but the level of fiscal ambition is not one that secures for sure the [triple A] rating.”
Moody’s worries that the government will struggle to get political agreement either to raise tax revenues significantly from their current low of 14.8 per cent of national income, or to cut federal spending far from its high of 25.4 per cent of national income.
The report follows concerns recently expressed about the US public finances from the other large rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s warned last week the triple A status of the US was at risk unless the country adopted a credible medium-term plan to rein in fiscal spending. Fitch Ratings issued a critical report on the US in January.
Fitch said: “In the absence of measures to reduce the budget deficit over the next three to five years, government indebtedness will start to approach levels by the latter half of the decade that will bring pressure to bear on the triple A status.”
Nothing is safe these days. By the way, the image is directly from: timothygeitner.com, a blog showing no love for its subject.