Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion proposal to stabilize the banking system may push the national debt to the highest level since 1954, threatening an erosion of foreign appetite for U.S. bonds.
The plan, which asks Congress for funds to buy devalued securities from financial institutions, would drive the debt above 70 percent of gross domestic product and the annual budget gap to an all-time high, possibly exceeding $1 trillion next year, economists estimated.
"This is sobering, absolutely sobering, even to someone who doesn't drink," said Stan Collender, a former analyst for the House and Senate budget committees, now at Qorvis Communications in Washington.
Another Bloomberg article discusses the key role the credit ratings agencies Standard & Poor's (of S&P 500 fame) and Moody's played in rating collateralized debt obligations (CDOs):
Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Frank Raiter says his former employer, Standard & Poor's, placed a ``For Sale'' sign on its reputation on March 20, 2001. That day, a member of an S&P executive committee ordered him, the company's top mortgage official, to grade a real estate investment he'd never reviewed.
Driven by competition for fees and market share, the New York-based companies stamped out top ratings on debt pools that included $3.2 trillion of loans to homebuyers with bad credit and undocumented incomes between 2002 and 2007. As subprime borrowers defaulted, the companies have downgraded more than three-quarters of the structured investment pools known as collateralized debt obligations issued in the last two years and rated AAA.
Without those AAA ratings, the gold standard for debt, banks, insurance companies and pension funds wouldn't have bought the products. Bank writedowns and losses on the investments totaling $523.3 billion led to the collapse or disappearance of Bear Stearns Cos., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. and compelled the Bush administration to propose buying $700 billion of bad debt from distressed financial institutions.
Article here. Worth a read.