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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Schadenfreude

The Germans have a word for everything. Yes, this post is about pleasure enjoyed at the misfortunes of others. It is not an enlightened emotion, nor evolved. Nevertheless, I can't deny that I am experiencing it at the moment. My feeble justification for it is that this is a misfortune that could have been easily avoided and is being experienced by the smugly arrogant.


To my delight, the United States of America has had their credit rating reduced. For a long time they have enjoyed a triple-A rating. S&P has dropped them by a single step for "AA+" and warns that if they don't get their collective financial heads out of their arses, they're likely in for another drop within the next two years. (I'm paraphrasing: S&P never said "head out of arse" but it has a better ring to it than "eliminate Bush-era tax cuts and reduce entitlements.") Basically the "greatest country in the world" has been lumped in with such minor entities as Belgium, New Zealand and Spain. One more step down, and the good ol' US of A will be tied with Slovenia! Ah, such a giggle that would give me.


(I have nothing against Slovenia, Belgium, or any of the other fine nations currently enjoying a credit rating of AA or AA+, but just as the US hates to be beaten in sports by anyone else, surely it must burn that they are no longer in the top percentile of the credit rating game.)


Not only has the US been downgraded, but their projected outlook is listed as "Negative." Canada, on the other hand, is still swimming Scrooge McDuck style in its pool of "Stable Triple-A." Good times. So who else is currently ahead of the US in the "faith of money" standing? Quite a few, actually, including Australia, the UK (go Commonwealth!), Luxembourg and France. That last one must really sting, since the US has had many decades to develop its contempt for France (basically since the French helped the US win their independence).


France is at least a nation with a large, diverse economy. Not so Luxembourg. The whole place is only 2500 square kilometres! They are now considered to be more likely to repay their debts than the most powerful nation in the world.


Of course, Luxembourg doesn't start wars halfway across the world in a vain attempt to root out terrorists that they themselves helped to create. You can save quite a few bucks every year by avoiding that. I know my household budget has been a lot more stable since I've called back all the minions I had occupying my neighbour's place (they had a pool, and who wouldn't want a pool?).


No other country in the world has been granted such a wealth of land, natural resources, and diverse population. With all the gifts the US has been given, it should have been the simplest thing in the world to become not only the most powerful, but the best in truth rather than just in their tired imaginations. Really, way to throw it all away, guys. Well done.


Will this credit rating hit compel them to mend their ways? Almost certainly not. After all, the US has never been worried about what other people think of them, or they wouldn't have done half the things they've done. No, they'll carry on, blithely unaware that they might be living in the last days of Rome. The "barbarians" are at the gate, just waiting to knock #1 down.


Oh, wait. Not Number One anymore. Now you're tied for second, America.


**EDIT** Not two hours after I posted this, the US Secretary of the Treasury went public with comments indicating that European governments need to get their "fiscal house" in order to provide a financial backstop for economies under pressure. In other words, he's blaming Europe for not being prepared to deal with American screw-ups. Clearly my prediction that they will learn nothing has been proven accurate. So sad.

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