Michael Hudson is always worth the time to read. In this piece in New Economic Perspectives he eviscerates the rating agencies. Here are his concluding remarks..
…No less a financial publication than the Wall Street Journal has come to the conclusion that “in a perfect world, S&P wouldn’t exist. And neither would its rivals Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings Ltd. At least not in their current roles as global judges and juries of corporate and government bonds.” As its financial editor Francesco Guerrera wrote quite eloquently in the aftermath of S&P’s bold threat to downgrade the U.S. Treasury’s credit rating: “The historic decision taken by S&P on Aug. 5 is the culmination of 75 years of policy mistakes that ended up delegating a key regulatory function to three for-profit entities.”
The behavior of leading banks and ratings agencies Cleveland and other similar cases – of promising to give good ratings to states, counties and cities that agree to pay off short-term bank debt by selling off their crown jewels – is not ostensibly criminal under the law (except when their hit men actually succeed in assassination). But the ratings agencies have made an compact with crooks to endorse only public borrowers that agree to pursue such policies and not to prosecute financial fraud.
To acquiescence in such economically destructive financial behavior is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. Cutting federal taxes and Social Security payments to obtain a more positive S&P “opinion” would give banks an ability to “pull the plug” and force privatization and anti-labor austerity plans by refraining from rolling over the U.S. debt – and cutting taxes Tea-Party style rather than funding spending by taxation on a pay-as-you-go-basis.
The present meltdown of the euro provides an object lesson for why policy-making never should be left to central bankers, because their mentality is pro-creditor. Otherwise they would not have the political reliability demanded by the financial sector that has captured the central bank, Treasury and regulatory agencies to gain veto power over who is appointed. Given their preference for debt deflation of the “real” economy – while trying to inflate asset prices by promoting the banks’ product (debt creation) – central bank and Treasury solutions tend to aggravate economic downturns. This is self-destructive because today’s major problem blocking recovery is over-indebtedness.
Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.