S&P Chief: U.S. politics too "unpredictable"

David Beers, global head of sovereign ratings for Standard and Poor's
CBS News

Standard and Poor's rating agency, in addition to downgrading the U.S. credit rating on Friday, also put the U.S. on a negative outlook, meaning if Washington can't get its fiscal act together, another downgrade could be on the way.

David Beers, global head of sovereign ratings for Standard and Poor's, joined CBS News weekend anchor Anthony Mason in a Q&A session to discuss the change.

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Mason: What role did the toxic debate in Washington have on your decision?

Beers: Well, it highlighted for us something that we've been observing for a number of months now, which is simply the extraordinary difficulty of getting a political consensus about fiscal policy and fiscal policy choices now and in the future.

So that whole process for us just highlights the fact that the U.S. is becoming a bit more unpredictable in terms of the conduct of fiscal policy relative to some of the other governments that we rate.

Mason: Given how severely ratings agencies failed to anticipate the financial crisis, why should people put faith in your ratings now?

Beers: Well, I would be the last person to tell people what they should do with our opinion, and I recommend that they read it, the analysis behind it and draw their own conclusions.

Mason: In terms of timing, if the U.S. succeeds in reducing its debt, how quickly could it get its triple a rating back?

Beers: That's not what we're looking at right now. We're looking at the deal that was agreed this week and we're (judging) by the test of 'Does it turn the rising of the debt burden around?' Our answer is, in our view, no, it does not.

Mason: What you're saying is it could be years before we get our Triple-A rating restored?

Beers: It depends on the fiscal policy choices that the government makes.

  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"