Debt battle set to draw to close, for now
MSNBC | Aug 2
The United States was poised to step back from the brink of economic disaster Tuesday as a bitterly fought deal to cut the budget deficit was expected to clear the Senate and President Barack Obama’s desk.
Budget fight on health care cuts just beginning
AP | Aug 2
When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, the debt deal raises more questions than it answers. The giant health care programs serving some 100 million elderly, low-income and disabled Americans were spared from the first round of cuts in the agreement between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. But everything’s on the chopping block for a powerful new congressional committee that will be created under the deal to scour the budget for savings.
US debt deal: how Washington lost the plot
The Guardian (Dean Baker) | Aug 2
While many in the media and around the country had been panicking over the possibility that no deal would be reached and the government would actually default on its debt, those who understand American politics knew that this is not a concern. The reason is that Wall Street is on the frontline in this battle.
If there were a default on US debt so that it could no longer be held on bank books as being a riskless asset, most of the major banks would likely be insolvent. It would not be just US debt that must written down, but also debt implicitly guaranteed by the government, such as mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as a wide range of other assets held by the banks.
The loss of value of on a wide range of assets could easily wipe out the capital of the Wall Street banks, putting them on the road to Lehman land. Since JP Morgan, Citigroup and the rest have enormous power in Congress, it was a safe bet that they would force their allies to find a way to keep them in business. Therefore, there was never any reason to worry about the default story.
What we should be worrying about is all the news that Washington has ignored while it was doing the debt ceiling shuffle. Most importantly, the economy has almost stopped growing and unemployment is again on the rise.
Why Much Was Accomplished in the Debt/Budget Negotiations
Economics One (John B. Taylor) | Aug 1
Many are still debating how much was accomplished in the debt/budget agreement approved by the House today with the Senate to vote and the president to sign tomorrow. In my view, much was accomplished, and credit goes to all those who have been laying out the arguments and fighting hard for a return to sound fiscal policy as part of a pro-growth program to get the economy moving again.
The Coming Double Dip
Slate | Aug 1
What does the last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling do to aid the flagging, faltering economy? Nothing.
The economy is in appalling shape. Last week, the Commerce Department’s latest estimate of economic growth left many economists agog. In the second quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent. In the first, it grew at an annual rate of just 0.4 percent, a figure revised down sharply from previous estimates. Based on the first six months of 2011, the economy is growing less than 1 percent per year, about one-third of the speed we would expect during a normal expansion. In short, the recovery has completely stalled and the economy is perilously close to double dipping back into recession.
Those horrid growth figures are magnified by horrible jobs figures. Currently, 14.1 million Americans are out of work. Millions more are underemployed, discouraged from hunting for jobs, or “missing” workers who have elected not to enter the labor market. Even if the economy suddenly starts growing at the pace of the 2002-07 expansion, the unemployment rate would not drop to its prerecession level of 5 percent until 2018.
But the debt deal pays no attention to the unfolding catastrophe in the real economy. The deal’s major accomplishment, as touted by the White House, is hardly an accomplishment at all—merely an admission that Congress has probably avoided doing too much damage during this idiotic debate.
On the debt-ceiling deal
The Economist | Aug 1
To Democrats I would like to say relax, guys. The debt-ceiling got raised. Yay! And the debt-ceiling deal is not going to destroy the recovery, if there has been a recovery. While the deal does rule out further fiscal stimulus, the bulk of the putative cuts in the deal are so far in the future that their contractionary effects are likely to be small to nil.