To understand the furor over the decision by Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, to downgrade U.S. government debt, you have to hold in your mind two seemingly (but not actually) contradictory ideas. The first is that America is indeed no longer the stable, reliable country it once was. The second is that S.& P. itself has even lower credibility; it’s the last place anyone should turn for judgments about our nation’s prospects.
Let’s start with S.& P.’s lack of credibility. If there’s a single word that best describes the rating agency’s decision to downgrade America, it’s chutzpah — traditionally defined by the example of the young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan.
So there is no reason to take Friday’s downgrade of America seriously. These are the last people whose judgment we should trust.
No, what makes America look unreliable isn’t budget math, it’s politics. And please, let’s not have the usual declarations that both sides are at fault. Our problems are almost entirely one-sided — specifically, they’re caused by the rise of an extremist right that is prepared to create repeated crises rather than give an inch on its demands.
The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.
Here's my way of doing that, from a short story about how sailors and Marines used to deal with people who fucked 'em over:
There was much talk of "dungaree liberty," a time honored Naval tradition in which sailors donned working uniforms, armed themselves with knives, pipes and clubs and went ashore to wreak havoc on an offending liberty town.
A little dungaree liberty on the 'baggers and the Repugs who kowtow to them would not be out of line at this point.