Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hypocrisy Of Republican Criticisms Over S&P Downgrade

Nelson D. Shwartz and Eric Dash wrote the following for The New York Times:
The day after Standard & Poor’s took the unprecedented step of stripping the United States government of its top credit rating, the ratings agency offered a full-throated defense of its decision, calling the bitter stand-off between President Obama and Congress over raising the debt ceiling a “debacle.” It warned that further downgrades may lie ahead.

In an unusual Saturday conference call with reporters, senior S.& P. officials insisted the ratings firm hadn’t overstepped its bounds by focusing on the political paralysis in Washington as much as fiscal policy in determining the new rating. “The debacle over the debt ceiling continued until almost the midnight hour,” said John B. Chambers, chairman of S.& P.’s sovereign ratings committee.

Another S.& P. official, David Beers, added that “fiscal policy, like other government policy, is fundamentally a political process.”

Initial reactions from Congressional leaders suggested that S.& P.’s action was unlikely to force consensus on the fundamental divide over spending and taxes. Politicians on both sides used the decision to bolster their own long-standing positions...

Even as the ratings agency insisted on Saturday that its move shouldn’t have come as a shock, it reverberated around the world. Officials from China to Europe scrambled to assess the downgrade’s impact on the already troubled global economy, and political leaders in the United States sought to frame the issue in their favor.

Republican presidential candidates on Saturday seized on the downgrade as a new line of criticism against President Obama, suggesting that ultimate responsibility rests in the Oval Office.

“It happened on your watch, Mr. President,” Representative Michele Bachmann said. “You were AWOL. You were missing in action."

She had also stated that the "president has destroyed the credit rating of the United States."

Rick Santorum echoed Bachmann: “I understand the U.S. Treasury is going back to Standard and Poor’s to say that a two trillion dollar mathematical error by S&P contributed to the downgrade, so, in addition to blaming President Bush for all of its problems, now the White House is blaming S&P – but this happened on the President's watch – and he has to deal with it.”

“We need new leadership in Washington committed to fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, and job-friendly policies to get America working again,” Former Ambassador to China John Huntsman said.

“America’s creditworthiness just became the latest casualty in President Obama’s failed record of leadership on the economy,” said Mitt Romney in a statement. “Standard & Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama. His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating.”

Considering the whole reason there was a debt ceiling "debacle" in the first place was because Republicans decided to tie the debt ceiling increase to spending cuts and then refused to negotiate on deficit-reducing measures like revenue increases such as closing tax loopholes.  Bachmann's response to the downgrade, criticizing the president saying he was "AWOL" is a misrepresentation of the facts (which is nothing new for Bachmann) - Obama has made countless efforts to negotiate a deal with Republicans and each time Republicans refused to work with the administration walking out of meetings opting to run to the press and talk about how the president was being so unreasonable for asking the GOP to compromise not even as much as the Democrats were willing to.

Also, if you consider the Republican criticisms and then look at Standard & Poor's reasoning behind the downgrade - "the debacle over the debt ceiling continued until almost the midnight hour" and "fiscal policy, like other government policy, is fundamentally a political process" - they were clearly placing the blame on the gridlock in Washington and not the economic policies of the administration.  Considering the debt ceiling has been raised numerous times under both Democratic and Republican administrations without any consequences, the Republican game of chicken bringing the United States of America on the brink of default was clearly the reason why S&P made their decision.  Had the GOP compromised with Democrats and closed tax loopholes and raised revenue none of this would have happened.

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