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Words are a lot like money. When misused, they lose their value.When you spend money you don’t have, you lose credibility. When you use words that don’t match your actions, you lose credibility. It’s not just America’s credit that has been downgraded, but the credibility of the federal government’s leaders—and their cheerleaders in a courtier press—has been downgraded as well. Voters give President Barack Obama poor marks—43 percent approval rating in Gallup’s most recent survey—because he says one thing and does another. The results of this two-faced presidency have been disastrous.
Standard and Poor’s downgrading the federal government’s “AAA” rating to “AA+” merely confirms what everyone already knew: the federal government has become reckless in budgetary matters. The reactions of the powerful to S&P’s acknowledgment of the obvious shows that those rash with other people’s money are also rash with their own words.
“I think S&P has shown really terrible judgment and they’ve handled themselves very poorly,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner emoted to CNBC regarding S&P’s credit-rating reassessment of the United States. “And they’ve shown a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U.S. fiscal budget math. And I think they drew exactly the wrong conclusion from this budget agreement.” The hapless Treasury Secretary’s words ring more true when applied to him. After all, he foresaw “no risk” of a credit downgrade in April and penned the much-mocked “Welcome to the Recovery” New York Times op-ed one year ago, boasting that “the actions we took at its [the recession’s] height to stimulate the economy helped arrest the freefall, preventing an even deeper collapse and putting the economy on the road to recovery.” With consumer spending down, unemployment above nine percent, and the annual economic growth rate below one percent thus far for 2011, the op-ed now reads as a weak attempt to Jedi-Mind-Trick the American people into an economic expansion. You can’t hope your way to prosperity.
The day before the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 635 points, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that “there is no reason to take Friday’s downgrade of America seriously.” It’s such advice from the former Enron advisor that makes it so hard to take Paul Krugman seriously. “And please, let’s not have the usual declarations that both sides are at fault,” he wrote Sunday. “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.” This comes from the Princetonian pundit who would have had the government spend more—on a second, bigger stimulus and a single-payer (state-funded) health care program.
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