Here was the question to S&P exec John Chambers, and his reply:
Q: “There's been a figure of $4 trillion dollars circulating as an example of the scope of fiscal consolidation measures that could work to stabilize the U.S. debt-gdp ratios. Could you explain how that figure was arrived at since it was mentioned in S&P's reports and where it figures in S&P analysis?"
A: “First of all, that figure comes initially from the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, and it was embraced by President Obama in his April 13 speech and Paul Ryan in his counter-budget proposal. And so you had policy makers converging around the amount. Now actually the $4 trillion, depending on whether it is front-loaded or back-loaded, is not going to do the trick in terms of stabilizing U.S. government debt-to GDP ratios. But it takes you pretty far along. And I think a grand bargain of that nature would signal, you know, the seriousness of policy makers to address the fiscal issues of the United States, to actually stabilize the debt-to-GDP. The IMF says it takes 7.5% of GDP consolidation. I think we have more than that."
The U.S. annual budget deficit is now around 9% of GDP.
Chambers adds: “But $4 trillion would be a good down payment. We thought that..if policy makers could deliver the goods on that, then that would be a strong sign on our political scores and eventually on our projections on the fiscal side.”
S&P has already said it may slash the Triple-A rating if a debt ceiling deal is not accompanied by what it deems is a credible plan to cut the $14.3 trillion federal [debt] by $4 trillion. The plan has "to have bipartisan support," Chambers said. "If you have a plan that is only backed by one side or the other, even if you got it through, you would be faced with the prospect of it being unwound."
So, S&P's Chambers is saying the ratings agency wants to see at least a $4 trillion deal, one that would come with bipartisan support, too, because the ratings agency fears without that support, Congress will upend any debt-cutting plan.
There was only ever one plan that did what S&P said was required — $4 trillion in cuts with bipartisan support. That'd be Cut, Cap, and Balance — a plan that cut $4 trillion and got bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
As Democrats tonight, and some Republicans, lash out and blame the Tea Party for causing the United States to lose its credit rating, it is worth pointing out that only the Tea Party offered up a plan to avoid what happened.
This is precisely why the GOP should have held the line.