They Really Are Out To Get You

©Crookedtimber.org
Goalposts In Motion (click to enlarge) ©Crookedtimber.org

Many have asked recently whether ratings agencies like Moody’s, Fitch, or Standard & Poor’s really are the neutral commentators they claim to be. Do they provide advice to investors without fear or favour, merely giving their assessment in a disinterested way? Or are they out to get us?

To think the latter would seem just downright paranoid. And yet… This post on well-respected politics blog Crooked Timber suggests that there is something rather difficult to explain going on with the agencies’ assessments of the Irish economy. Every time Ireland complies with the conditions of the EU-IMF deal by cutting spending, the agencies downgrade it further. This downgrade means that the goal of raising money on the markets moves still further away.

Let’s just repeat that – the more we cut our budget spending, the less likely it is we’ll be able to borrow the money we need to pay for our budget.

It really does seem they’re out to get us.

Why would they be? They’re not there to frustrate our economic recovery or undermine the EU’s plan. They’re there to give the best advice to investors. That’s how they make their living.

But wait – Can’t it be both? The thing is, the ratings agencies do not – cannot – issue predictions while pretending the prediction itself is not going to influence the market. If they did, the predictions would be wrong. They must have long accepted that they help shape the market they pronounce on. Yes, they are there to give good advice to their clients. But that can mean giving advice that is good for their clients.

They also know that when a currency collapses, there’s a killing to be made. The Euro’s fall could be the biggest free money explosion in history, and what easier way to cause that fall than to bring down one of its more vulnerable economies?

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