Credit downgrade leads to more politics

August 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When President Barack Obama began making his remarks Monday, the Dow was down 300 points or so, but it only got worse after that. It closed more than 600 hundred points in the red.

If you're judging by the market's reaction, the president's remarks seemed to accelerate the sell-off. The market decline grew steeper right after he spoke.

In the face of a Standard and Poor's downgrading of U.S. treasuries from AAA to AA-plus, the president projected optimism.

"In fact, Warren Buffet, who knows a thing or two about good investments, said if there were a AAAA rating, I'd give the United States that," said Obama.

As he has in the past, the president called for extending the payroll tax and unemployment benefits, and investing in America's infrastructure. While his former economic advisor teed off on House Republicans.

"The House majority played chicken with America's credit worthiness and America's families are now going to be the losers," said former Economic Council director Larry Summers.

Move On sent an email to its followers blaming the Tea Party for the downgrade and the Wall Street sell-off. On the right, Americans for Limited Government said the president's remarks indicate he's "completely out of touch with the fiscal reality facing our nation."

And in Iowa, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann had this.

"That's what we need, a president who understands how you grow the economy," said Bachmann. "Wouldn't that be a refreshing change."

So there's plenty of politics being played, but back in the financial world the downgrade has not hurt U.S. treasuries. Instead of interest rates rising on car loans or student loans or home mortgages, interest rates on 10-year treasury notes actually fell to their lowest rate this year.

"The remarkable and somewhat paradoxical thing is the safest investment is still the U.S. treasury bond," said Tom Campbell, former GOP Senate candidate and current dean of Chapman University's law school.

Campbell says that compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. ratio of total debt to total output or GDP looks pretty good -- 67.9 percent in the U.S. compared to 79.7 percent in the United Kingdom, 86.7 percent in France and 76.7 percent in Germany. And they all still enjoy AAA ratings, at least for now.

"As they go back and look at other countries they may very well put them at AA-plus ratings as well," said Campbell

Campbell says the downgrade doesn't mean the U.S. is a riskier investment. Monday, the world's investors backed that up. The huge sell-off in the stock market was matched by an enormous buy of U.S. treasuries and gold as investors looked for a safe place to put their money.


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