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Sunday, July 24, 2011

When do the markets start taking the obvious insanity of politicians seriously?

It's been clear up to this point that the financial markets have not taken what is an ever clearer picture of the true insanity of members of Congress seriously. How do I know that the markets haven't taken it seriously? Because we are still standing far too close to one year highs. The fact that we have fundamentalists in Congress who believe that they must obtain a total victory or they'll take the whole country with them should be more disquieting to markets than it has been so far.

I fear that this may be like the TARP vote, which I will maintain to my dying day was necessary, where financial markets had to absolutely implode in order for financial markets to jar Congress out of its tizzy. However, the fundamental problem is that we may not have quite that window available to us. While it is entirely possible that the Treasury can find enough scraps of money around to keep debt service going for a little while if it puts off other key functions, the simple truth is that at some point there will simply not be enough cash on hand to make a particular interest or principal payment. If the Treasury has to pay $25 billion one day and only has $13 billion on hand, to quote a number of characters in a number of movies, "Well, shit". That would cause the requisite collapse in financial markets, but at that point it would be far too late.

As I've noted before in this entire debate, the U.S. has had its AAA credit rating for years for a number of reasons, but one of the most principal reasons is not only has the U.S. never defaulted before, but it has never even really come particularly close to defaulting (with one modest exception in the Panic of 1893) and our politicians have never really considered it a possibility that they would allow it to happen. I think that this bizarre charade alone warrants a loss of the AAA rating more than our current debt load does.

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