Why now?

Just as I was getting in to work yesterday morning, NPR mentioned that S&P had issued a statement saying something like, "if we re-evaluated the rating on US government debt, it's more likely than not that we'll downgrade it".

When I ate breakfast this morning, I noticed that the Post had an article on the front page about this. I was disturbed by two things in that article (which, I should point out, I didn't follow into the section when it continued). One, in discussing current spending levels, they described the retirement system as "an expensive social safety net for retirees". The part of that that bothers me is the "expensive" part. That's a value judgement, not an objective one. The Post, at least outside of opinion columns, should not be making value judgements.

The other part is this. My first reaction about hearing about the downgrade was, "Why now?" Frankly, it feels a lot like S&P trying to inject itself into a political conversation where they really don't have any place. And the timing is especially strange, given that the recent substantive developments are all in the direction of cutting the deficit, which is what the S&P says it wants.

If they were reacting to substance, doing this immediately after the approval of the extension of the Bush tax cuts would have made a whole lot more sense. As it is, it seems more than trifle suspicious (possibly even disingenuous). On the plus side, the bond market seems to have treated it appropriately, ie: ignored it. On the minus side, it horked up the stock market yesterday.

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