Let me start off by saying I have no doubt that Sen. Tom Coburn wants smaller government — much smaller government. But is giving more money to government — and hoping against precedent that Washington just doesn’t spend the new cash — the best way of doing it? Here is a bit from his Meet the Press interview yesterday:
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has taken a crack at deciphering President Barack Obama’s murky new budget plan, called the “Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility.” And its findings are devastating:
Earlier today I noted that none of the major debt reduction plans floating around would meet S&P’s key financial metrics, as well as those of its competitors. At least this was the analysis of Goldman Sachs. Here is what I wrote (plus a pretty chart):
By prodding Washington to agree on a debt plan, Standard & Poor’s might achieve just the opposite. Its dour take on Treasuries could inflame the debt-ceiling debate, leaving little energy for a grand budget compromise. And the severe austerity S&P desires would have few takers anyway. Consider the following:
OK, let’s try and actually compare the new Obama budget plan — “The Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility” — with Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.” My calculations — partly based on work done by Goldman Sachs — find that the Ryan Path would save more than double, 130 percent. In dollars, it’s a difference of $3.9 trillion (nearly 2/3 from higher taxes, net interest expense savings).
On Wall Street, calling some strategy a “black box” is an epithet. The term implies financial flimflammery may be at play. Opacity may conceal trickery. Bernie Madoff had a black-box model that supposedly helped him pick winning stocks. The deception was in the details, or, rather, the lack of them.
Credit rating agencies such as S&P really place a lot of emphasis on two financial metrics: the ratio of net debt to GDP and the ratio of net interest payments to government revenues. When you look at those two factors, Goldman Sachs concludes “that the US is already at the outer edge of AAA territory. ” (Thank goodness for the supremacy of the dollar.) Look at the pretty chart from GS:
Barclays bank offers its take on S&P. Here are some highlights (bold is mine):
1) A couple of hours ago, S&P put its long-term rating on U.S. sovereign debt on negative outlook. This means that it believes there is at least a 33% chance that it will lower the AAA long-term rating of the U.S. within two years.
Talk about fuzzy math. President Obama claims higher taxes will account for a mere third — $1 trillion — of his proposed $3 trillion debt reduction over 12 years, not counting less interest expense. Wrong. The actual number is probably around 50 percent of $4 trillion in savings — some $2 trillion — and could be closer to 60 percent. (More details below.) Instead of offering a template for a Grand Compromise, Obama seems to have created a Grand Obfuscation.