Saturday, August 6, 2011

Choosing is not a choice

Friday night Standard & Poor's downgraded America's debt rating from AAA to AA+. The "bipartisan" budget deal worked out by US lawmakers last week apparently doesn't pass muster.

This should come as no surprise. The deal is the concoction of a government in gridlock and political parties without the will to make tough choices and risk alienating their most vocal and influential backers. Faced with the option of raising taxes or cutting spending--two very sacred cows--lawmakers chose none of the above.

The situation in the US is unsustainable because neither side of the debate is willing to concede anything, but now something has to give. Spending must be matched with revenue. When the two are out of sequence, the former must be cut or the latter raised--or better yet, both. A business can't survive without this careful balance and neither can a country.

In abandoning this basic principle, the US is now downgraded--and rightly so. Plans that appease everyone serve no one, and so it is with recent American fiscal policy. US lawmakers must prepare to make unpopular decisions or risk worsening an already grave budgetary tailspin.

Americans can either pay more for the services they receive or cut those services and pay less. Both options are valid, but a choice must be made as no combination of the two will work.

To be sure, the coming days and weeks will be crucial ones. Lawmakers and economists will be working hard to assess the damage that has been done and determine a way forward. Traders like myself will be looking to understand this changing dynamic of the global markets and identify opportunities therein.

As this situation unfolds, follow my latest thoughts both here and on Twitter @thetsxpert.

--Read the S&P's downgrade report here--

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