Congressional Budget Office

French Rating Agency Fitch Affirms US At AAA, Outlook Stable

A French-owned rating agency (the same country that currently has a short-selling ban) just did all it can not to tip the boat. What can one say but "truly a gutsy call." Unlike S&P which looks at such obsolete things as fundamentals and realistic projections, Fitch instead relies on something far more intangible: "its pivotal role in the global financial system and the flexible, diversified and wealthy economy that provides its revenue base." In other words, it's rated AAA... because it is rated AAA. Somehow we doubt Fitch will take the initiative to be the first to downgrade France... That said even Fitch had some pseudo-harsh words: "Despite its exceptional creditworthiness, the fiscal profile of the US government has deteriorated sharply and is set to become an outlier relative to 'AAA' peers. The overall level of general government debt, which includes debt incurred by states and local governments, is estimated by Fitch to reach 94% of GDP this year, the highest amongst 'AAA' sovereigns. However, federal government indebtedness is lower than in other major 'AAA'-rated central governments. Fitch estimates that federal debt held by the public will be equivalent to approximately 70% of GDP this year compared to around 75% for the UK ('AAA') and France ('AAA')." So, record debt for a AAA-rated country, check, but... AAA-rated. So all is good.

Timeline Of Fiscal Catalysts In The Second Half Of 2011 And After

Now that Ben Bernanke has made it clear that monetary intervention is on hold (supposedly...at least according to the FOMC minutes; what happens at Jackson Hole is not so clear), that monetary stimulus is on hiatus (if one can call a 2 year ZIRP extension and duration cut hiatus), the economic renaissance ball is deep in the court of fiscal policy. But unlike the Fed, where events by now are so finely and quantitatively nuanced courtesy of the the If=>Then logic of the Fed (no matter how troubled or failed), with the economy now in the hands of politicians, this more than anything could be a reason for everyone to really panic. That said, below is a blueprint of what Congress is "supposed" to doto not throw the economy into a tailspin, and also what it has to do to avoid a repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco once again (which as everyone knows by now buys $2.4 trillion in deficit funding in exchange for $22 billion in deficit cuts).

S&P Explains Why The "$2 Trillion Error" Is Irrelevant

Yesterday we showed that when it comes to projections, the CBO's own track record makes S&P shine in comparison. Apparently this fact was not lost on S&P itself which sent out a note explaining which "clarified assumption used on discretionary spending growth." Basically, as S&P says, "Our ratings are determined primarily using a 3-5 year time horizon. In the near term horizon, by 2015, the U.S. net general government debt with the new assumptions were projected to be $14.5 trillion (79% of 2015 GDP) versus $14.7 trillion (81% of 2015 GDP) with the initial assumption – a difference of $345 billion." So yes, while by 2021 the difference could be $2.1 trillion based on the CBO's current baseline model, the truth is that the CBO's own estimate on revenue and spending projections in a decade will likely have a +/- $10 trillion margin of error. So does anyone really care? In essence all S&P did was point out what Zero Hedge and others have been saying: that a "deficit cutting" plan which is massively back end loaded and has about $20 billion in cuts over the next year is absolutely without credit or merit. And the disingenuity on the side of Treasury to believe that someone would think otherwise is simply appalling. That said, while the markets look set to crash very shortly, the overabundance of catalysts means that it will be more than just the downgrade that throws risk into a tailspin. Although prepare for an all out onslaught by the Treasury on S&P as a scapegoat. After all in USSAA(negative outlook) it is never our fault: it is always someone else's.

S&P Downgrades US To AA+, Outlook Negative - Full Text

Well, so much for the conspiracies. S&P has just released a scathing critique of the total chaos that this country's government has become. "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. 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. 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." What to expect on Monday: " it is possible that interest rates could rise if investors re-price relative risks. As a result, our alternate scenario factors in a 50 basis point (bp)-75 bp rise in 10-year bond yields relative to the base and upside cases from 2013 onwards. In this scenario, we project the net public debt burden would rise from 74% of GDP in 2011 to 90% in 2015 and to 101% by 2021." And why all those who have said the downgrade will have no impact on markets will be tested as soon as Monday: "On Monday, we will issue separate releases concerning affected ratings in the funds, government-related entities, financial institutions, insurance, public finance, and structured finance sectors." Translation: unpredictable consequences: you are welcome!

Bill Gross' Latest: Here Is How The "Debt Man Walking", aka Uncle Sam, Plans To Steal From You

In his latest letter, Kings of the Wild Frontier, crushes the optimism of all those, roughly 4 altogether in the entire world whose combined IQ barely breaks into triple digit territory, who believe that the debt ceiling "compromise" does anything at all for US spending patterns, weather it is for total marketable debt, or the $66 trillion in NPV of future liabilities. Gross, however, does show us the 5 ways (well, 4 plus default) that the "debt man walking", aka Uncle Sam and his tens of trillions of future liabilities, plans to rob from you: dear taxpayer, in order to minimize the present value of these unmanageable future liabilities. To wit:

  1. Balance the budget and/or grow out of it
  2. Unexpected inflation
  3. Currency depreciation
  4. Financial repression via low/negative real interest rates

All of these guarantee that investor pocketbooks will be dramatically affected... Adversely. Let's dig in...

All That Matters Part 2: Today's DC Agenda

The melodrama is not over yet. Here is what we have to look forward to out of DC on the debt ceiling crisis today, one day ahead of the Treasury running out of cash. The market assumes the deal is done. The market did the same with the "3 page termsheet" Tarp 0. Perhaps a real market flush is what is needed to really generate a "grand compromise."

All That Matters: Today's DC Agenda

Since all macro and micro news has now become redundant, with politics, specifically headlines, the sole driving force behind each and every market move, especially today when Boehner's plan is expected to pass Congress only to be deadended in the Senate, here is a complete list of what is on the docket in DC today. Keep in mind that this list is most likely to change on a moment's notice as DC comes up with "new and worse" plans virtually by the minute.

Boehner Releases Revised Plan: To Cut $91.7 Billion Each Year For A Decade, Buys 4 Months Before Next Debt Ceiling Hike

The epic revision in the just revised Boehner plan is to cut a grand total of ... $91.7 billion per year for 10 years (back-end loaded of course: 2012 will see just $22 billion in cuts - can't have any real cuts too early or else). The spin is that this is sufficient because the $917 billion in cuts is more than the proposed $900 billion debt ceiling hike, so all shall be well. Of course that is only part one of the two-part debt ceiling hike process. The next step is a $1.8 trillion cut to "protect programs like Medicare and Social Security from bankruptcy."  The problem is that Boehner continues along the path of a two-step debt hike, a formulation that Obama will never agree to, since it effectively guarantees him no-reelection chance, as the last thing the people will want is the same bickering as we are experiencing every day again some time in 2012, when the current $900 billion in incremental debt capacity runs out. And actually, with the US debt already $300 billion below trendline and with the government's two pension funds already plundered by a like amount (which means they have a net IOU position), it means that the Boehner plan really buys only $600 billion of dry powder. At a burn rate of $150 billion a month, this means the first step of the Boehner plan buys precisely 4 months before the debt ceiling has to be raised again! Oh yes, this plan also guarantees at least a one notch downgrade to the US debt, with more notches coming up before the end of the year when this whole farce is repeated.

As CBO Scores Boehner's (Laughable) Deficit Cut Plan, Jay Carney Admits Obama Still Does Not Have An Actual Plan

Even as the Congressional Budget Office has just released its score of the proposed Boehner plan, the president's spokesman Jay Carney was out earlier hemming and hewing for about 9 minutes in front of reports before it was made clear that Obama does not even have an actual plan to paper which the CBO can score. Yet surprisingly enough, as the National Review Online presents, even without actually having any plan, Obama is still happy to announce he will veto Boehner's plan. It is one thing to veto one plan over another, if one believe the "another" is better. But vetoing something on purely ideological grounds, in the complete absence of "another"... well that we have no idea how it can possible be spun aside from pure ideological demagoguery.