August 8

AAA downgrade – is it the imperial presidency?


The downgrading of America's credit rating by Standard & Poor is a blow to her prestige. Some say it is symbolic of a changing world order.

According to Standard & Poor, the downgrade “reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policy-making and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.” (The Sun- Herald 7 August, 2011)

To what extent can American political institutions be blamed for this result?  President Obama himself had warned beforehand (London Daily Telegraph, 29 July) that if the crisis was not solved the United States could lose its prized AAA credit rating “…because we did not have a triple-A political system to match.”

It was solved, but the US still lost its credit rating.

…US political institutions (continued below)…


While the American model has its attractions, as we mentioned recently (31/7), it suffers from rigidities not present in our Westminster system.


While an impeachment paralyses the government and congress , sometimes as long as 18 months, the seriou8s threat of supply drying up so that, for example military parade has and pensions could not prepare it is unacceptable. 

As we have seen, our constitutional system deals with most effectively  by the requirement that a government must resign if it cannot guarantee supply. All other political parties understood this principle; both had attempted to take advantage of it by denying supply. Indeed between 1950 and 1975, the ALP had attempted this 150 times.

 What was astounding was the hypocritical reaction to the dismissal not so much by the Labour Party but by the chief beneficiaries and in particular Malcolm Fraser when he campaigned for a republic in the 1999 referendum.

The fact is that the the Australian Constitution provides a speedy solution which the American Constitution does not.

…imperial presidency… 


Indeed the fixed term of the American president and the fact that he has not responsible to Congress may well be a disadvantage in ensuring that confidence remains in the financial markets.

A significant weakness of the American system is that the president is not subject to the rigourous examination that is the lot of Prime Minister under the Westminster system. Perhaps that is why Prime Minister's Questions from Westminster is such a popular program on American television.

 Americans are fascinated by the way in which they have seen Mrs Thatcher as she then was, Tony Blair and others subject to such close questioning, particularly by the person designated as the alternative, that is the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal  Opposition.

 Instead of such a trial, and a way for members of the public to observe both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition in action,  the president comes to the Congress as if he were an emperor to speak on  the state of the union . He is greeted by  the congressmen and senators who stand and applaud, his speech is interspersed with applause, there is no questioning but only standing ovations and applause.

 The congressmen and senators stand and applaud as the Emperor leaves the chamber.

Compare the imperial republic to the crowned republic, our constitutional monarchy. Is it just by chance that in the long period of British dominance of the world, never once was there the slightest suggestion that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland would default on her obligations?


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