Maddow Flat Out Lies About S&P’s Downgrade Explanation: 'Not Because There's Too Much Debt'

As NewsBusters previously reported, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was rewarded for lying about Rush Limbaugh on her program Thursday by getting a guest appearance on Sunday's "Meet the Press."

The top brass at NBC should be pleased with their decision for Maddow proceeded to thoroughly misrepresent the reasons Standard and Poor's gave for downgrading America's debt Friday (video follows with transcript and commentary):

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: I mean, the, the downgrade message whatever you think of S&P, they mentioned the need for increased revenues and for revenues being on the table three separate times. They absolutely indicted the fashionable intransigence of the Republican Party right now in Washington. And there's a question about whether or not there will be a change in fashion, whether or not that will be a sort of wakeup call that the parties need to work together rather than the Republicans' fashion right now, which is that any deal is a bad deal.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, where to begin? I don't think Republicans are saying any deal is a bad deal. But when you look at what these rating agencies are all saying, Standard & Poor's or not, is that we can't continue to maintain an unsustainable level of debt. And these Republicans in the Congress are saying how can you grow an economy when you have to service an unfathomably growing amount of debt? And so they put their foot down on that. And the problem is not Republican intransigents, I think the problem is balance, as the president likes to call for. We have balance. We have Republican intransigence and "We have to stop spending," and Democrat intransigents that "We must continue to keep spending." That's why we got nothing done.

GREGORY: But we...

MADDOW: That's not why S&P says they downgraded us, though. S&P says, "The downgrade was motivated by all the debate about raising of the debt ceiling. It involved a level of brinksmanship greater than what we had expected." That's why they say they downgraded us. Not because there's too much debt, but rather that Washington is not working.

Toward the end of the segment, Maddow reiterated this stupidity:

MADDOW: Let's take them on their word about why they did this. They said they did this because of brinksmanship over the debt ceiling. They did not say they did this because there's too much government spending.

GREGORY: All right. Let's, let...

MADDOW: They said they did this because of Republicans holding the debt...

CASTELLANOS: Because of the debt.

MADDOW: No. The debt ceiling. Brinksmanship...

CASTELLANOS: Yeah, but the debt ceiling is the ceiling...

MADDOW: ...is their word.

Really? Well, why don't we look at the official statement S&P released Friday to discern the truth?

Here is the complete overview (emphasis added throughout to demonstrate just how wrong Maddow was):

Overview

· We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to 'AA+' from 'AAA' and affirmed the 'A-1+' short-term rating.
· We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from CreditWatch negative.
· The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.
· More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
· Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any time soon.
· The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

Please observe the word "debt" is mentioned three times in that overview. Notice too that S&P cautions about "less reduction in spending."

Now, let's go back to what Maddow said, namely, "That's why they say they downgraded us. Not because there's too much debt, but rather that Washington is not working...They did not say they did this because there's too much government spending."

Is that what you see, or what Maddow made up? Let's look deeper into the press release:

Rationale

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.

Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden, and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria (see "Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions," June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41).

So, right up front in its rationale, and quite contrary to what Maddow said, S&P indicated that "further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending...is less likely than we previously assumed."

In addiition, "Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden."

Again, this is in stark contrast to what Maddow falsely asserted Sunday, as was this:

Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a 'AAA' rating and with 'AAA' rated sovereign peers (see Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions," June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). In our view, the difficulty in framing a consensus on fiscal policy weakens the government's ability to manage public finances and diverts attention from the debate over how to achieve more balanced and dynamic economic growth in an era of fiscal stringency and private-sector deleveraging (ibid). A new political consensus might (or might not) emerge after the 2012 elections, but we believe that by then, the government debt burden will likely be higher, the needed medium-term fiscal adjustment potentially greater, and the inflection point on the U.S. population's demographics and other age-related spending drivers closer at hand (see "Global Aging 2011: In The U.S., Going Gray Will Likely Cost Even More Green, Now," June 21, 2011).

And a little further in:

When comparing the U.S. to sovereigns with 'AAA' long-term ratings that we view as relevant peers--Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K.--we also observe, based on our base case scenarios for each, that the trajectory of the U.S.'s net public debt is diverging from the others. Including the U.S., we estimate that these five sovereigns will have net general government debt to GDP ratios this year ranging from 34% (Canada) to 80% (the U.K.), with the U.S. debt burden at 74%. By 2015, we project that their net public debt to GDP ratios will range between 30% (lowest, Canada) and 83% (highest, France), with the U.S. debt burden at 79%. However, in contrast with the U.S., we project that the net public debt burdens of these other sovereigns will begin to decline, either before or by 2015.

Please remember that Maddow went on the nation's highest rated broadcast television Sunday talk show claiming that S&P said Friday's downgrade was "[n]ot because there's too much debt, but rather that Washington is not working."

Although the credit rating agency did indeed talk about Washington politics and how it relates to this issue, the focus of its press release on this matter was indeed debt which was mentioned 28 times in this report.

This is, after all, a credit rating agency, not a political analysis think tank.

Something else Maddow misrepresented was the importance of revenues in S&P's analysis saying, "They mentioned the need for increased revenues and for revenues being on the table three separate times."

Isn't it fascinating how Maddow notices the word "revenues" mentioned three times but completely missed the 28 references to "debt?"

But here's something else she missed: "Standard & Poor's takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.'s finances on a sustainable footing."

Indeed, for S&P's concern is debt, and however we reduce the velocity of its growth is irrelevant to the credit ratings agencies regardless of the liberal media's singular focus on tax hikes.

As for Maddow, she once again proved herself to be so overcome with her biases that she is completely incapable of truthfully reporting the facts in a critical eight page analysis.

That this kind of negligence is tolerated on MSNBC is one thing, but for the folks at NBC News to allow her to come on their flagship Sunday political talk show disseminating easily refutable lies is truly disturbing.

Exactly why are so-called journalists allowed to misrepresent the truth to the public when people in every other profession in this nation lose their jobs for doing so?

The folks at Comcast and General Electric are certainly aware of this for every employee at all of their other divisions has a code of conduct regulating such behavior.

Why are people employed by NBC News and MSNBC exempt?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.