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Financial System Riskier, Next Bailout Will Be Costlier, S&P Says

Huff Post- Shahien Nasiripour

First Posted: 04/19/11 05:26 PM ET Updated: 04/19/11 06:00 PM ET

The financial system poses an even greater risk to taxpayers than before the crisis, according to analysts at Standard & Poor’s. The next rescue could be about a trillion dollars costlier, the credit rating agency warned.

S&P put policymakers on notice, saying there’s “at least a one-in-three” chance that the U.S. government may lose its coveted AAA credit rating. Various risks could lead the agency to downgrade the Treasury’s credit worthiness, including policymakers’ penchant for rescuing bankers and traders from their failures.

“The potential for further extraordinary official assistance to large players in the U.S. financial sector poses a negative risk to the government’s credit rating,” S&P said in its Monday report.

But, the agency’s analysts warned, “we believe the risks from the U.S. financial sector are higher than we considered them to be before 2008.”

Because of the increased risk, S&P forecasts the potential initial cost to taxpayers of the next crisis cleanup to approach 34 percent of the nation’s annual economic output, or gross domestic product. In 2007, the agency’s analysts estimated it could cost 26 percent of GDP.

Last year, U.S. output neared $14.7 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. By S&P’s estimate, that means taxpayers could be hit with $5 trillion in costs in the event of another financial collapse.

Experts said that while the cost estimate seems unusually high, there’s little dispute that when the next crisis hits, it will not be anticipated — and it will likely hurt the economy more than the last financial crisis.

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It seems like just yesterday that Republicans, wingnuts and teabaggers suffered a collective schizoid embolism over the passage and signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

One year ago today, the president signed the bill amidst protestations from Fox News, talk radio and Rick Santelli about how the “porkulus” spending bill wouldn’t work — how it wouldn’t stimulate economic growth or create jobs. It was called generational theft, socialism, communism, Nazism and any other -ism that could be quickly plucked from the glossary of Glenn Beck’s fifth grade social studies textbook.

Nearly all Republican members of Congress voted against it — the first shot in their “trash and cash” strategy whereby they screech about the evil stimulus and how it’s an unmitigated catastrophe, while also gleefully celebrating the incoming cash in their districts, scores of Republican lawmakers outright begging various cabinet-level agencies for stimulus grant money. In all, 111 members of Congress have engaged in this hypocrisy. One of many reasons why they’re consistent only in their unapologetic self-contradictions.

And, at the end of the day, they can get away with it because of annoyingly common misconceptions about the bill. Chief among these misconceptions is the mixing up of the stimulus and the bailout. A recent CNN poll shows that only 25 percent of Americans think the stimulus helped the middle class, while a majority think it helped bankers. Of course the stimulus had nothing to do with bankers.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland: “It’s possible that the belief that the stimulus bill helped bankers and CEOs is due to the public confusing the stimulus bill with the various bailout bills that were passed at roughly the same time last year.”

So let’s clear this up.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is “the stimulus.” Those signs you see along the highway just before driving onto super-smooth new asphalt? That’s the stimulus. The recovery act. When you hear “stimulus,” it references this $787 billion spending bill, and it contains the following key provisions.

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