The Economics Of The U.S. Credit Downgrade

Aug 6, 2011
Originally published on August 7, 2011 7:23 am
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Joe Nocera, op-ed columnist for the New York Times joins us now. Joe, thanks for being with us.

JOE NOCERA: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: What does this mean for people beginning now?

NOCERA: That will also have an effect on consumers because so much of the interest that we pay in our own lives are paid to Treasury bills, such as an adjustable rate mortgage. The truth is, the larger impact could be symbolic, you know. What does this say about our currency? Will it mean that other countries will be less willing to buy our debt? You know, those are the kind of questions that are going to take a long time to figure out, but they're scary.

SIMON: Do you expect the other credit agencies to follow?

NOCERA: So they really have been laying the groundwork for this for quite a while. I don't think Moody's and Fitch, which are the other two big rating agencies are going to follow immediately.

SIMON: Of course, the announcement came late on a Friday night. Is there anything Wall Street trading houses are going to try and do over the weekend to prepare for the opening bell on Monday?

NOCERA: It is still the safest place for them to put their money. And so, it's not as if Wall Street's going to wake up Monday morning and say, here's an alternative, because there really isn't still an alternative. And so I suspect that the reaction on Monday will be quite muted.

SIMON: And I have to ask, with this disagreement between Standard & Poor's, and the Treasury Department and the U.S. government over the two trillion dollar calculation error, does that in any way affect the significance of the judgment they wound up reaching?

NOCERA: So what S&P is basically saying is to the political parties, get your house in order. And that is much more prominent in their statement than the actual amount of debt in this downgrade.

SIMON: Joe Nocera, op-ed columnist for the New York Times. Thanks very much.

NOCERA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.