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Dumb, Dumber and the Downgrade

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Image: Bob RosnerThe recent debt ceiling debate and S&P downgrade of the U.S. government reminded me of a fight between an ex-spouse and boss over who can make your life the most uncomfortable. You realize that they both have lots of weapons to do it and there is precious little that you can do to change the outcome.

Congress fiddled and S&P lit the match last week and the rest of us will suffer. That’s the bad news. The good news? It shouldn’t be any more than nine to eighteen years that we’ll be stuck in purgatory. At least that’s what a S&P official said when asked how long it took previous downgraded countries to regain their AAA rating.

Ironic that a rating agency would start the ball rolling on this most recent downgrade, when it was the rating agencies sloppy ratings that started the recession in the first place by giving their highest ratings to what could only be charitably called junk bonds. Or worse.

But my favorite moment, is when the Treasury Department found a $2 trillion dollar mistake in the rating agency’s calculations about how bad our fiscal hole is moving forward.

It was Senator Everett Dirksen who said, “A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, soon it adds up to real money.” Senator, the quote still works, you’ve just got to change the “b” to a “t”.

One more metaphor, you know how I love my metaphors. This one comes from Africa, “When the elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers.”

We can dig ourselves out of this mess. But so many of our institutions need to be cleaned out an refocused on actually addressing our long terms financial health. I guess that last statement would officially make me an optimist. Or crazy.

Okay, I’ll accept a combination of both.

We can rise above this but only when we put self interest in the side and do what’s best for everyone moving forward. Okay, I’ve not seen it in my lifetime, but I’ll choose to keep an upbeat tone to this missive.

Wish us luck. We’ll need it.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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