Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The United States may already have lost

Word this morning appears to be that the House Republicans are ready to cave, and that the Reid-McConnell deal will likely get through both houses, thus ending the default crisis and the government shutdown for the moment.

But the United States may already have permanently tarnished its hugely important reputation, with other countries and in global capital markets, as a safe and secure counter-party (for lending or anything else) with tolerably well-functioning governance.

I mean, this time the whole world really noticed and started to wonder.  You see articles like this ("Viewing U.S. in fear and dismay") and also like this ("Fitch puts U.S. on notice for possible credit downgrade").  By the way, while I don't know anything about Fitch or its motives for threatening the downgrade, this strikes me as much less of a stunt than the earlier Standard & Poor move, which I viewed against the background of S&P's having sullied its reputation in the run-up to the financial crisis.  Why wouldn't one downgrade the U.S. credit rating if we can evidently get so close to default, and when there are people with potential influence in the Republican Party who actually think default would be a good.thing?

Obviously, if nothing like this happens again, the capital markets and the world are likely to forget about it.  But keep in mind that the time extensions being discussed in the Reid-McConnell deal are only a few months, and that the people who set the House Republican strategy over the last few months (often dragging the putative leadership along with them) are likely to keep trying, whether through the same stunts or new ones.

UPDATE: Early evidence concerning the economic costs of the contrived crisis.

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