Since it began to give credit ratings to nations in 1917, Moody's has rated the United Statesw triple-A. U.S. Treasury bonds have been seen as the most secure investment on earth. When crises erupt, nervous money seeks out the world's great safe harbor, the United States. That reputation is now in peril.
Last week, Moody's warned that if the United States fails to rein in the soaring cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the nation's credit rating will be down-graded within a decade.
Our political parties seem oblivious. Republicans, save Ron Paul, are all promising to expand the U.S. military and maintain all of our worldwide commitments to defend and subsidize scores of nations.
Democrats, with entitlement costs drowning the federal budget in red ink, are proposing a new entitlement -- universal health coverage for the near 50 million who do not have it -- another magnet for illegal aliens. Moody's is telling America it needs a time of austerity, while the U.S. government is behaving like the governments we used to bail out.
California has already hit the wall. With an economy as large as a G-8 nation, the Golden State is looking at a $14 billion deficit in 2009 and a $3 billion shortfall in 2008. Gov. Schwarzenegger has called for slashing prison staff by 6,000, including 2,000 guards, early release of 22,000 inmates, closing four dozen state parks and a 10 percent across-the-board cut in all state agencies. The Democratic legislature is demanding tax hikes, which would drive more taxpayers back over the mountains whence their fathers came.
Meanwhile, Washington drifts mindlessly toward the maelstrom. With the dollar sinking, oil surging to $100 a barrel, the Dow having its worst January in memory, foreclosures mounting, credit card debt going rotten, and consumers and businesses unable or unwilling to borrow, we appear headed into recession.
If so, tax revenue will fall and spending on unemployment will surge. The price of the stimulus packages both parties are preparing will further add to the deficit and further imperil the U.S. credit rating. This all comes in the year that the first of the baby boomers, born in 1946, reach early retirement and eligibility for Social Security.
To stave off recession, the Fed appears anxious to slash interest rates another half-point, if not more. That will further weaken the dollar and raise the costs of the imports to which we have become addicted. While all this is bad news for the Republicans, it is worse news for the republic. As we save nothing, we must borrow both to pay for the imported oil and foreign manufactures upon which we have become dependent.