The S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating last night. The full report is here. What struck me in its overview are these two points (below) which directly speak to how our fiscal reputation is being managed. In other words, the ability of our governing leaders to work effectively as a management team is no longer putting the US at the head of the class. We all know that when corporate boards do not function well, they are called to task, reputations gets tarnished and board members find themselves disinvited to serve. We now see the same reputational metric of good governance being applied to our government and the picture is not pretty. S&P is essentially saying that our ability to govern fiscally and responsibly is ineffective, less stable and more unpredictable than it was earlier. And our ability to collaborate across parties is in question. It’s not just the credit rating that’s being discredited but our fiscal reputation as well. America’s reputation for fiscal safety is being downgraded as well.
More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.