Who’s really to blame for three-quarters of a million US guns streaming into Mexico? Ask conservatives. Everything you need to know about the Fast and the Furious “scandal,” in a couple of bullet points.
…So imagine the poor guys whose job it is to pass judgment on the credit quality of the United States. Boy, talk about what used to be a cushy job. This was probably the easiest credit rating decision ever, for decades. The US was the gold standard, the one unimpeachable gem of credit quality in a world of shifting economic and political trends, some of which spanned decades. That poor guy down the hall has Argentina and Mexico—the guy across from you has Indonesia and Malaysia. You, on the other hand, just crunch out your ratios, knowing that they set the standard for everyone else.
And you know other stuff too, as does everyone—that it’s that triple-A rating that lets the US borrow however much it wants to, because it’s, frankly, cheaper for the US to borrow than it is for anyone else, except maybe for a couple of Scandinavian countries with populations the size of Newark, and Switzerland, and maybe Canada too. And that the entire global financial system takes its borrowing costs from the cost at which the US government borrows. That the US government debt rating underpins the ratings for thousands of municipalities, including the various states, as well as all sorts of other entities that borrow, like the quasi-government-owned banks that let farmers buy homes, that organization that guarantees student loans, those sorts of things. But you don’t ever need to think about this too deeply, because the United States would never, ever, ever get itself into a position where any of this might be questioned.
Except suddenly, whoa, you have a bunch of insane tea party Republicans running around Congress, and guess what? They don’t care if the United States defaults. In fact, many of them seem to think it’s a good idea. Some of them are even Presidential candidates who say they won’t vote to increase the debt limit, no matter what. They seem to believe that Social Security is causing the US to run too big a deficit, or something…They don’t even care if they get their facts straight or not. But all of a sudden they’re in a position to hold the US government’s ratings hostage, for the sake of preventing America’s first black President from getting re-elected. Not that he’s been that great a president, but still…