Okay, raise your hand if you feel like you have complete understanding of how world finance works. You, in the back — put your hand down, you liar.
Let me admit right off the bat, I simply cannot grasp the subtle nuances of economics. Frankly, it’s confusing.
But I have a very strong suspicion that I’m not the only one who feels that way. If these concepts make no sense, why are we content to sit back and let them drive our economy into the ground? Does that make any more sense?
Okay, I’m going to try to tackle this subject, but first, I should probably share some disconcerting news. You might not have heard this, but apparently, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating from AAA to AA+ on Friday.
I know, right? Also, Michael Jackson is dead.
But ever since (and even before) the downgrade, all I’ve heard is doom and gloom. Double dip. World of worries. Shock and awe. Armageddon unleashed. The way some people share their dire predictions with such glee, you could swear they want the economy to fail, just so they can gloat.
Well, I have one answer to all of these pessimists: Shut the hell up. You’re going to ruin everything! There’s no reason to assume the economy’s going to tank just because that’s one possibility as prescribed by some economic mumbo-jumbo that no one fully understands, anyway. Are we really going to be prisoners of a fate imposed by whim? Get over it, Americans!
There are at least three reasons we should simply ignore S&P: 1) they based their analysis on erroneous numbers; 2) their ratings were largely thought to have caused the last recession; and 3) their credit rating system is an artificial construct with no bearing on reality, anyway.
The rating was based on a flawed analysis, one that contained a huge mathematical error. That’s right — they added wrong. And these are the guys we’re trusting to analyze our numbers? They overestimated our deficit by $2 trillion.
$2 trillion! No small error, yet when our Treasury folks corrected it, S&P said it didn’t really matter, because they were sticking with their decision.
I believe that conversation might have gone something like this:
S&P: “We’re downgrading you because you have too much outstanding debt.”
Treasury: “We have $2 trillion less debt than you think.”
S&P: “We’re downgrading you because you have too much bipartisan conflict.”
Seems it was a foregone conclusion — could S&P be overcompensating for something? Many people blame them for starting the 2007-2008 credit crisis, because they gave good ratings to bad risks. Do we really want to trust them now? Too little too late, guys.
Besides, what difference does it make? This is what blows my mind about the whole situation — people are panicking because we were downgraded on Friday, but do you know what else has changed between Thursday and today? Absolutely nothing.
Our debt is no riskier now than it was last week; it’s simply been given a different rating. The situation is the same; we have a lot of debt. But we don’t suddenly have lots more than we did before the downgrade. Essentially, the new rating is nothing more than a name, and who cares what name S&P wants to use? They could have called our debt “Marvin Stinky-Toes” and it should have made the same difference — none.
But people are reacting like the Cowardly Lion in front of the Great and Powerful Oz, as if S&P’s word is definitive, changes everything, and has earth-shattering consequences. No organization should have so much power that when they give a foregone conclusion, it sends the world into a tailspin.
This is nothing more than a credit rating; we all have them. The only time they should be important is when some stranger asks for a loan — a bank can use that stranger’s credit rating to determine whether s/he’s worth the risk of lending him/her money.
But you know what? This wasn’t a stranger, this was the United States of America. We kinda have a known history. Is it even possible for someone to invest in us or buy our debt without already knowing our financial situation?
Well, maybe China. The way they reacted, you’d think: 1) they were shocked; and 2) their S&P rating isn’t a notch lower than our newly downgraded one.
Essentially, they told us to stop living beyond our means, that the U.S. should “cure its addiction to debts” and “live within its means.” They stopped short of saying “Money doesn’t grow on trees” and “Close that door; I’m not paying to air-condition the whole neighborhood, dammit!”
Still, they had a good point, and they do sort of own us. Duly noted, China, and lesson learned. It’s just too bad you’re not the only ones pointing fingers…
Yesterday, Michele Bachmann took the opportunity to criticize Obama from the campaign trail. He’s certainly not beyond reproach, but consider what she said: “It happened on your watch, Mr. President…You were AWOL. You were missing in action.”
Which was he, Rep. Bachmann — AWOL or MIA? There is a difference, you know. And by the way, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t qualify as either, considering he’s been right there the whole time, caving to you and your ilk during the negotiations. Not to mention, you being a member of Congress and all, it also happened on your watch. It happened on Boehner’s watch. It happened on Reid’s and Pelosi’s watches. Hell, when you get right down to it, it happened on every American’s watch.
So we at least owe it to ourselves not to make things worse. And that starts with not panicking. We control our economy’s fate; there are no outside forces that can hurt it without our consent. Remind everyone you know of that.
Want to make things better? Buy something. Hire somebody. Pump some life back into this thing. It will do whatever we want it to, and if we panic, it won’t be pretty. Let’s all stay calm, ride this out, and do whatever we can to help businesses start hiring again. Spread the word.
Now, for the deficit. Did you know any citizen can make a donation toward reducing the public debt? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 311,000,000 people living in this country; if every man, woman and child donated just $1 each, it would make … very little difference.
To completely eliminate the deficit would take more than $4500 from each of us — children, retirees and poor alike. That’s obviously not feasible, but we could still make a sizable dent in it. Even twice that amount — more than $9000 — is chump change to the people who’ve been making the most noise about the deficit. Maybe they should put their money where their mouths are?
Hey, public candidates, why not pull ten grand out of your mud-slinging budget and apply it to the deficit? Hey, Hollywood hypocrites, instead of making public service announcements decrying “evil” politicians or defending child-raping directors, why not put that money toward the deficit? Hey, rich bastards — pony up!
I don’t like the idea of forcing the rich to pay more through legislation, but I’m perfectly fine with shaming it out of them. There are plenty of people who can afford to give scads of money to make this problem go away. I’m not one of them; therefore, I’m going to try.
For every copy of my book I sell, I give 10 percent ($1.40) to education. I’m going to donate another $1.60 (per, not total) toward the national deficit. That’s $3 off the $14 cover price. For added incentive, I’m not going to charge for shipping for the rest of this year. I’ll pay shipping out of my pocket, which should just about eat into everything I make off the book. Now, don’t you rich whiners feel ashamed? Step up, dammit!
Btw, in the name of obligatory marketing, I should tell you about the book. It’s called A Nay for Effort, and it’s a series of true stories about amusing things that have happened to me. It hasn’t sold a lot, but the people who have bought it claim to have read it, and have said it’s funny.
There are some good reviews — from people whom I didn’t bribe, I swear — on Amazon and Lulu, but the free shipping and deficit-paydown offer applies only on my website, because the only way I can afford to do this is by buying in bulk, keeping a truckload of books in my wife’s dining room, and hoping to sell them myself. Plus, if I handle fulfillment, I can even sign the book and give you a nifty bookmark with it!
So help me help the deficit — and my wife — by ordering a copy. That way, if Armageddon really comes, maybe you can go out laughing.
I don’t kid myself that I’ll sell enough to make a big dent, but hey, 3000 copies would wipe out my portion of the national deficit. And who knows? If we’re lucky, maybe someone at S&P will subtract that $4800 and think we’ve actually eliminated trillions.