It All Adds Up Of A, B, C, S and P's

November 3 2011

There are three kinds of people; those who can count and those who cannot. No points for guessing that I belong to the second category.
And I thought my misery was over after school. No mathematics. No tension. But the A’s have come to haunt me again after decades of peace. As a child, I was most anxious about my mathematics grades. Being realistic, I never hoped for an A+ but a decent B+ was always a face saver. 

I agree that it is idiotic to compare a nation’s report card with that of a child, but the comparisons are compelling. The downgrade of US economy from an AAA on long term debt to an AA+ has taken me down the memory lane. To add to my agony the ratings agency, Standard and Poor’s sounds like my strict math teacher Sister Prasanna Thattil. Anything below a B+ warranted a piercing stern look, “You need to work hard, my child.” And anything below C was a clear signal for an ominous parent-teacher meeting. In school a mathematics downgrade, meant work harder. Interestingly for the US too, it essentially means work harder - less spending and more earning. 
Not many would be aware of the musical group, ‘Blood Sweat Tears’ which popularized a phrase, ‘what goes up, must come down’ in their hit song Spinning Wheel. Yes, it must and it does. Poor Obama, his fiftieth birthday made history. In one stroke Standard & Poor’s stripped Amrika of a seventy year old exalted AAA status. Obama’s optimistic ‘Yes we can’ has become ‘Yes we might’.  

To be fair to the US I would love to know the accountability of these rating agencies like S&P, Moody’s and Fitch etc. I mean with weird names like Moody’s, how the hell does one trust their ratings? Yankees, please do not take offence, but it is a fact that average intelligence levels of Americans has arguably been B+, but as providence would have it, they have enjoyed AAA; life and ratings both. Regardless of being poor mathematicians, every equation in their life added up brilliantly! So far!

You have to hand it to the Americans who are bravely trying to laugh off the downgrade blues. The comic chat show host, Jay Leno quipped, “This is how bad our credit is now. President Obama just asked China for another loan and they won’t give it to him unless his mother-in-law co-signs.”

Coming back to my struggle with numbers  a research says that math ability is inborn – either you have it or you don’t. Thank you researchers for easing the load of guilt I carried for years. But any downgrade hurts. The latest one of the United States has already caused me a substantial loss on the stock market. I hate this. Why should their follies and their report card affect my life? A sneezes, B catches cold, C lands in the hospital, and D almost dangles between life and death.  We are one big family where economics is concerned.

 At the end of the day it is the ordinary people who have to pay back the huge debts some governments picked up. All of us have to collectively pull our socks to survive or Sister Prasanna Thattil might give us a good spanking for the downgrades.

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