Debt Ceiling Warning: Inaction Would Double Interest Rates, Crash Market

Business leaders beg GOP to raise debt ceiling by July.

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Public efforts by both House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama to convince skeptical new Republican House members to add $2 trillion to the nation's burdensome $14 trillion debt ceiling are being reinforced by dire warnings from business leaders that failing to OK the increase will lead to inflation, an immediate doubling of interest rates and a killer Wall Street crash.

[Check out political cartoons about the budget deficit and national debt.]

"If they don't increase the debt, there will be a huge impact on the economy," a Wall Street executive told Whispers on background. "Interest rates would spike. S&P and Moody's would downgrade U.S. debt, raising the price of borrowing, there would be a market sell-off, it would be a disaster." [See the 10 best cities to find a job.]

While Boehner, who yesterday called for a deal that would OK the debt ceiling increase in return for trillions of dollars in spending cuts, Wall Street lobbyists and banking and business leaders are meeting with several of the new Tea Party-backed House members who pledged to stop raising the ceiling to explain the impact of standing pat. [See editorial cartoons about the Tea Party.]

"A lot of freshmen are new to the issue," said one of those meeting with the new members, some of whom signed pledges not to raise the debt ceiling no matter what.

Among the specifics the sources say they are telling the new members:

-- Inflation could jump, though they aren't giving any percentage growth.

-- Interest rates could double if U.S. debt is downgraded. House loans, for example, that are now below 5 percent, could surge to 9-10 percent, killing any chance of fixing the housing slump or cutting the unemployment rate, now at 9 percent.

-- The stock market could suffer a 10 percent drop, far more significant than the 778 point thrashing Wall Street took when the House rejected the government's $700 billion bank bailout plan in September 2008.

"That market sell-off will look small compared to what we'll see," said a Wall Street executive.

[See editorial cartoons about the economy.]

So far, the campaign to turn the naysayers around is starting to work, say those involved. Helping is the expectations that the debt ceiling won't actually be breached until August.

While there have been warnings that the vote must come sooner due to expectations that the cap will be breached this month, officials explained that Treasury can make several moves to postpone that until about August 2.