Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, economic adviser Robert Reich and other leading Democrats are furious at Standard & Poor’s for slightly downgrading the debt rating of the United States. It is implied that the downgrade itself is the main cause of turmoil and loss of confidence, and that this diagnosis of our looming inability to pay debts is actually itself the problem.
Consider this: A patient who has been drinking in binges for many years looks a little yellow and is feeling unwell. His physician, after careful examination, tells him that he now has serious liver disease and cannot live long unless he abstains from alcohol.
The patient, if a Washington politician, would loudly condemn the doctor for not making a more acceptable diagnosis – i.e., one that would not interfere with his desired lifestyle. It is the doctor’s diagnosis, not my habits, that actually magnifies this petty problem, the politician decides.
A few more years of Washington’s binge spending, at home and abroad, may bring all of us near the end.
Everett Schultz Jr.