Downgrade Nation

This week Standard and Poor’s downgraded the outlook for the United States to negative. Not exactly stunning news for anyone who has been living here, but slightly surprising all the same. There has been no downgrading of the actual credit rating of the United States which remains at a hilariously inappropriate AAA.

The excuse given for this apparent slight slip of reality is that there is concern that the budget will not be agreed upon in a manner to rein in the debt. It is confusing to ponder why over twelve trillion dollars in debt is a concern, but something like eight trillion was not. These strange notions are pretty much impossible to fathom, even with the new “debt ceiling” considerations. Each citizen is now up to approximately $46,000 of this debt. provides up to the second numbers, but be warned, the site is more seizure inducing than a Kanye West music video under fluorescent lights.

Arguably there isn’t anything astounding about the debt levels we have reached; this looks to be more about priming the nation for acceptance of enhanced austerity measures. When antique institutions like Standard and Poor’s admit we might have a problem with our debt, politicians will utilize that fact to further unravel targeted programs. These are the politicos who have been sleeping with working class demolition plans under their pillows for the last few decades.

The arguments presented from these politicians are never framed in terms of debt being caused by imperial overreach or corporate welfare; it’s inevitably about the need to slice through the few remaining safety nets in place for American workers. This is how they will frame this issue. Debt containment is not truly the goal, it’s the realization of the Grover Norquist’s bathtub dream.

The notion that Standard and Poor’s would decide at this point in the game to look as if they are a competent fiscal watchdog is laughable at best. Standard and Poor’s has continued to answer the United States question “do these pants make me look fat?” with an assurance of “No honey, not at all” (Triple AAA credit rating), but now act as if saying “perhaps a darker slimming color would be in order” (outlook-negative) is somehow behaving boldly. Any impartial observer would notice that the US isn’t even wearing pants, and hasn’t been for years!

Through this debacle one mystery remains. Who exactly is still purchasing this crummy debt? Through the almost impenetrable fog there is indication that the largest buyer(s) fall under “Other Investors”. I have this nagging fear that other investor will turn out to be essentially a World Bank/IMF entity. It’s not as if the accounting ledgers are exactly open to clear all of this up. “Other Investor” is a shady character, I’m thinking.

The debt continues to mount, the charlatan politicos plan their assaults, and the vast majority of the public just knows something is “off”. They will most likely not question, nor riot when very harsh austerity plans are put in place. These will be measures that will likely continue the privatization onslaught and raise the misery index to soaring new levels. They won’t feel justified to complain because after all, we’re in too much debt, right? Once again, this will be marketed as the plutocracy sees fit. It’s not your affordable state college that’s breaking the bank or your fire fighters’ pensions, it’s the lumbering, corrupt Empire, but that won’t be how the issue is presented on the typical D versus R television panel discussions.

Unless there is a mass awakening and discarding of corporate backed political talking points, all of this will be accepted in a docile manner by the majority of the population. Parasitocracy will truly rule. It’s our imperative to not allow the issues to be defined by those with very clear agendas that do not benefit the vast majority of citizens.

Some of the more amazing proposals out there include enormous changes to Social Security and Medicare. This is the frontline battle being waged at present. Those under 55 are the targets in this salvo. A whole new pool of money for private corporations could be available if individuals are forced to “pick” a private 401 K-esque entity for their retirement in lieu of traditional Medicare. These are the types of plans being advanced. Incredibly we’ve seen the successful push around the country to not allow union dues to be directly extracted from paychecks, but presumably under a system such as this, money would be obligingly funneled into corporate coffers with no difficulty. Workers would be forced to participate in these rigged markets. Never mind that these are trends away from a just and equitable society; it’s more along the lines of required participation with disreputable gamblers if you wish to have a paycheck.

There is no doubt that the debt is now beyond what the imagination can conjure. This is incredible new territory that could easily place us in a Wiemar situation at some point. One wild card is that the corporatocracy now drives the political process, not vice versa as was seen during those uncertain times in the past. This adds just enough novelty to our present situation to keep us from yawning in between the crying.

Unless we see paradigm shifting politics, the “answers” that come from government will only be those that have the stamp and approval of the major corporate players. This is why we are having the arguments over entitlements for the citizens but not over entitlements for military/industrial/banking/big pharma entities. The politicians who wish to look in those directions are simply shut out regardless of party affiliation. Austerity will be painful and real, our bread and circus era will mainly be circus.

This is decidedly new territory; the Standard and Poor’s revelation that the United States might be slightly less than omnipotent. Let’s use this as a springboard to rational discourse regarding the overreach of empire and the commingling corruption. Let’s not allow it to be used to easily implement the final stages of decay for what social structures we still have in place.

Kathleen Wallace Peine welcomes reader response. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Kathleen.