karl-henrik pettersson


Filosofiska tankar om företagande och ekonomi

Vilket samhälle vill vi ha? Hur mycket marknad? Hur mycket politik? Varför dessa ekonomiska orättvisor?

Nedgraderingen av USA, “en jordbävning i det amerikanska politiska och finansiella landskapet”

Standard & Poor (S&P), den mest prestigefyllda ratinginstitutionen i världen, nedgraderade i går för första gången någonsin USA – från högsta betyget AAA på den långfristiga statsskulden till det näst högsta betyget, AA+ (läs motiveringen här). Det kan tyckas, både bildligt och bokstavligt, som ett mindre steg. Ingenting kan vara mera fel. Det är ett jättesteg. Jag skulle kalla det en jordbävning i det amerikanska politiska och finansiella landskapet – och den kommer ganska säkert att få återverkningar långt utanför USA. S&Ps beslut den 5 augusti 2011 kommer att hamna i historieböckerna.

Alldeles bortsett från de effekter som nedgraderingen kommer att få på de finansiella marknaderna på måndag, och det kommer i bästa fall betyda stor oro och volatilitet, och i sämsta fall kraftiga kursfall och fortsatt nedåt de kommande veckorna, kommer beslutet att få andra konsekvenser i det korta perspektivet. Bland annat kan en hel mängd finansföretag, till exempel försäkringsbolag och många fonder liksom de halvfederala bostadsinstituten Freddie Mac och Fannie Mae, tvingas att göra omplaceringar. Eller i varje fall börja förbereda för en ny tid (Moodys och Fitch, de båda andra stora ratinginstituten, ger fortfarande USAs långa statspapper högsta betyg och det ger i praktiken visst andrum). Det gäller de företag som enligt sina statuter måste ha en viss andel AAA-tillgångar i sin balansräkning. Det är inte svårt att föreställa sig att det i sin tur får återverkningar i nästa led.

Kortsiktigt påverkas också konjunkturen. Nedgraderingen är gravt förtroendesänkande, och är det något som amerikansk ekonomi inte behöver just nu är det dåligt självförtroende hos företagen och i hushållen. Economist hade den här veckan en ledare om att riskerna för en amerikansk ”double dip” har ökat efter den dåliga överenskommelsen om skuldtaket (”There was a simple bargain to be struck: keep up spending in the short term in exchange for a big medium-term reduction in the deficit. Congress did precisely the opposite, failing to support a weak economy now and failing to find enough cuts over the next decade to improve the fiscal position.”) Risken för en ”double dip” har rimligen ökat avsevärt genom S&Ps nedgraderingen av den amerikanska statsskulden.

På lång sikt kan nedgraderingen få stora strukturella följder för det finansiella systemet. Statsobligationer förväntas vara riskfria. Och amerikanska statsobligationer, U.S. Treasuries, förväntas vara det mest riskfria av det riskfria. När det inte längre gäller (Tyskland, England och Frankrike har till exempel kvar sin AAA-rating) kommer det självfallet att få återverkningar på finanssektorn. Bland annat måste bankernas kapitaltäckningsregler, det som ibland kalla Basel-reglerna, skärpas. Eller uttryckt mera konkret, om inte statspapper längre är helt riskfria krävs det, allt annat lika, mera riskkapital i bankerna (som det hittills har varit har bankerna kunnat ta in hur mycket statspapper som helst i  balansräkningen utan att det behövts mer riskkapital). Till de strukturella förändringarna till följd av S&Ps nedgradering, kan man sedan lägga mer triviala följder som att det antagligen blir dyrare att finansiera den amerikanska statsskulden, dollarn borde allt annat lika förlora i relativt värde etc.

Varför gjorde S&P nedgraderingen? Det finns en del handfasta skäl redovisat i beslutet, till exempel att överenskommelsen i kongressen häromdagen att inom en tioårsperiod dra ned den federala budgeten med knappa 3000 miljarder dollar är åtminstone 1000 miljarder dollar för lite. Men det skälet väger lätt mot det som har med det politiska systemets kris att göra. S&P tror inte längre tror på de amerikanska politikernas förmåga att ta tag i situationen, de kommer helt enkelt, menar S&P, att få svårt att klara av sitt pensum att få fram en trovärdig plan för att få ner den amerikanska statsskulden. Man är överraskande tydlig i sin motivering:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

Är S&Ps beslut motiverat? Absolut – av tre skäl. För det första har S&P helt rätt i att det amerikanska politiska systemet är allvarligt handlingsförlamat, och att det finns en risk att de nödvändiga beslut om statsskuldens utveckling som måste fattas inom de närmaste åren inte kommer att kunna fattas. Den senaste tidens händelser bådar inte gott. Det är något helt enastående att politikerna i världens mäktigaste och rikaste land levererar en så undermålig lösning på statsskuldskrisen som den som presenterades häromdagen, och dessutom under själva processen tar av sig kalsongerna inför öppen ridå och gör sig själva till övriga världens åtlöje. För det andra var det aviserat. S&P varnade redan i april 2011 om att en nedgradering var möjlig.

Det är tredje skälet är mera spekulativt. Men i bästa fall är nedgraderingen så förnedrande och omskakande för USA att vi kommer att få en politisk tillnyktring.

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