One of the three major credit ratings agencies warned Wednesday that a failure to raise the debt ceiling could result in a lower credit rating for the U.S.
Fitch Ratings currently assigns a AAA rating to U.S. debt, the highest level possible. However, a failure to raise the debt ceiling "may not be compatible with 'AAA' status," according to the agency.
If the U.S. cannot sell more debt after bumping up against the debt ceiling, it may not be able to make all of its interest payments on time and in full. The federal government could begin running out of cash as soon as October.
The debt ceiling is currently $19.9 trillion, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has repeatedly urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling by September 29. A failure to do so could roil financial markets around the world, and ultimately increase the cost of servicing U.S. debt.
This is not the first time Congress has faced this problem. During an earlier debt ceiling showdown in 2011, Standard & Poor's reduced its rating on U.S. debt from its highest level to AA+. However, Fitch and Moody’s stuck with their top ratings.
Ahead of a House Ways and Means Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Taxation prepared an analysis of the distributional effects of the 2017 Republican tax bill. The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley highlighted the fact that according to the JCT analysis, about 75 percent of the individual and business benefits of the tax cuts will go to filers earning more than $100,000 in 2019. And nearly half of the benefits will flow to filers earning over $200,000.
President Trump’s 2020 budget includes up to $1.2 trillion in “potentially phantom revenues” — money that comes from taxes the administration opposes or from tax hikes that face strong opposition from businesses, The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports, citing data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That total, covering 2020 through 2029, includes as much as $390 billion in taxes created under the Affordable Care Act, which the president wants to repeal.
The $1.2 trillion in questionable revenue projections is in addition to the White House budget’s projected deficits of $7.3 trillion for the 10-year period. That total is itself questionable, given that the president’s budget relies on optimistic assumptions about economic growth and some unrealistic spending cuts, meaning that the deficits could be significantly higher than projected.
Ben Ritz of the Progressive Policy Institute slams President Trump’s new budget:
“It would dismantle public investments that lay the foundation for economic growth, resulting in less innovation. It would shred the social safety net, resulting in more poverty. It would rip away access to affordable health care, resulting in more disease. It would cut taxes for the rich, resulting in more income inequality. It would bloat the defense budget, resulting in more wasteful spending. And all this would add up to a higher national debt than the policies in President Obama’s final budget proposal.”
Here’s Ritz’s breakdown of Trump’s proposed spending cuts to public investment in areas such as infrastructure, education and scientific research:
Since roughly the end of World War Two, individual income taxes in the U.S. have equaled about 8 percent of GDP. By contrast, the Tax Policy Center says, “corporate income tax revenues declined from 6% of GDP in 1950s to under 2% in the 1980s through the Great Recession, and have averaged 1.4% of GDP since then.”