TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

The difference between being standard and poor and being Standard And Poors is that everyone runs to the teevee cameras when the latter has something to say.

Hello and good day and welcome to your Sunday Morning cavalcade of quickly typed remembrances of the flickering images that appear on teevee on Sundays. My name is Jason, and I'm terrifically amused by what this Sunday has evolved into since the beginning of the week. Today was going to be the day where everyone gloated or fretted about the debt ceiling deal, with a narrow range of responses being provided with a bottom line that everyone was happy that they "came together" and "got serious." Of course, the serious thing to have done was to agree to pay for the things that were bought years ago without fanfare or attention, and then people could have had whatever debates over spending they'd have liked.

Instead, they put the country through a sustained period of nonsense, and voila: a downgrade. These are the wages of debt ceiling negotiations! And so today will, instead, be a day of finger pointing and yelling at one another. It is pretty embarassing -- how would you "rate" America, knowing that millions of people are unemployed and that no one is doing anything about it?

But that's sort of the sad point: the difference between being standard and poor and being Standard And Poors is that everyone runs to the teevee cameras when the latter has something to say.

Anyway, happy downgrade, everyone! Let's get on with this. As usual, please feel free to sleep in, visit friends, have brunch, attend the worship service of your choice, and relax. Send an email along, or leave a comment. For later, you can follow me on Twitter.


Hooray! Paul Ryan is here today, with his famous haircut. If you're just now joining us, in America, Paul Ryan is the Wisconsin Representative whose plan to reduce taxes is to raise them on nearly everybody, whose plan to balance the budget is to not balance the budget, and whose plan to "save Medicare" is to stop paying for it, with vouchers that diminish in value over time, relative to rising costs. Only in Washington could someone with the ambition to work little and accomplish less find a field of endeavor suited to those limitations. Naturally, he is a superstar.

Also, Tim Pawlenty is here, in one of his last ditch efforts to get someone to pay attention to him. Plus, it looks like the dregs of the Fox Panel universe are out in force today -- Byron York and Kirsten Powers And Susan Something-Or-Other will be today's troika of pundits belittling Juan Williams.

But first, here's some guy from Standard And Poors to explain what the American people have done to so displease the great God Moloch.

The S&P guy says that there's been a "mild deterioration in the country's credit rating" and he doesn't expect much financial impact. Wallace points out that the Tel Aviv markets opened very badly. Should we expect the same when our markets open? The S&P guy says that the market is reacting to a lot of factors.

Who is responsible for the dysfunction? The S&P guys says that all of Congress and the White House are responsible. He says that "credibility" means that both political parties support S&P's vague notions of what "good" is. Wallace asks if that means that fiscal policy that includes entitlement reform without revenue increases would not be seen as credible? The S&P guy sort of hedges, but says that entitlements are a major source of spending, in case that's a newsflash for anyone.

He says that critics should step off, because his company is all about "making highly technical assumptions." This must be a nice job to have!

Wallace asks the S&P guy if the credit downgrade is an "effort to get their reputation back" after choking on their own dumb failure for a year while the economy collapsed in a heap. Naturally, the S&P guy says that's "completely untrue." He is very haughty about it! Even his mustache is high and mighty about it.

Should we expect further downgrades? The S&P guy says that the expectation is one of "downside," but of course, he and the other S&P high-priests will have to enter in to their Friday morning blood-orgy and read what the entrails of the dead goat carcasses they rut upon have to say about the market outlook before they make that determination.

So, now Paul Ryan will yell at the Democrats who are not invited on the show, and also there is the guy from Legg Mason, who I think is here only because he was sitting around with nothing to do now that the Legg Mason tennis tournament is winding down.

Ryan says he "more or less saw this downgrade coming" and "this is more vindication of our actions." Yes, it was those actions, debt ceiling hostage-taking that led to the downgrade. And the end result of the negotiations was massive budgetary austerity, so...what sort of vindication is being claimed here?

Wallace, feeling me, quips to Ryan, "Isn't that like a doctor saying 'I did the operation perfectly but the patient died?'" That's an almost-good analogy. The problem with it is that the doctor in that scenario is not some disingenuous hack, but is sincerely trying to save a life, and sometimes death just happens. So, it's hard to fit Paul Ryan into that model.

Wallace also points out that S&P condemned the "brinksmanship" and asks, "What about the failure to compromise?" Ryan says, everyone's to blame, but he is the least to blame, because he's the only one who has a plan for health care entitlements. (The Affordable Care Act is actually a "plan for health care entitlements." Maybe not the best! But the reason Ryan opposes it and doesn't count it as a "plan for entitlements" is because it insists on preserving them in some form, as opposed to ceasing to pay for them, and handing customers worthless chits.")

The Legg Mason guy says that the debt deal isn't so big that it will drag the economy down, but the drag is going to come from the fact that there's nothing the government can do to stimulate the economy. This seems to be true: the only bullet left in the chamber might be a QE3, but reasonable people tell me that sooner or later, the Fed's classic "even a tiny bit of inflation unleashes poltergeists" paranoia kicks in and the full employment mandate gets tossed on a fire.

So, Wallace points out that the White House wants to extend a payroll tax cut and create an infrastructure bank (public money is spend to manage an influx of private money; government involvement at this minimal level prevents the "infrastructure" created from being nothing but toll roads and "fee-for-service" things that exclude the participation of the middle and lower class) and extending unemployment benefits so that a few million Americans don't die. Ryan basically says that he would support none of those things. "It would exacerbate our debt problem." Sorry, unemployed people, but did you ever think about the problems you were causing for our elite politicians, whose children will never go wanting? Maybe you all should think about crawling off into the woods to die right now?

Who's got the better plan? The Legg Mason guy won't make it that simple: he favors both an extension of the payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits. He also agrees in principle with Ryan that long term tax reform would a useful endeavor. (Unfortunately, tax reform will now be another thing that won't be hasked out in the light of day by our sworn representatives. Instead, it's likely to be a matter taken up by the SuperCommittee.)

Speaking of! Who will be on the SuperCommittee? Ryan says he doesn't know if he'll be on the SuperCommittee.

Ryan also lies about what the White House offered in terms of the debt ceiling negotiation -- per Ryan, it was "blank check" to "big tax increase." In actuality, the guy who made the "blank check" proposal was Mitch McConnell, and the White House, most notably, offered four trillion in cuts and included changes to Medicare eligibility. Because it hurt the GOP's chances of being able to tag the White House as unserious, they rejected it, predicting (correctly, as it turns out) that the media wouldn't remember the "grand bargain" and its terms. Indeed, I seem to be one of the few people who do remember it.

(Though this week, the RNC did this Mediscare thing where they yammered about how Obama wanted to cut Medicare -- a policy position the RNC supports, so I didn't understand the negativity -- that recalled, nonetheless accurately, a plan the White House put forward. But toward the end of the negotiations, the GOP insisted that the White House never put forward a plan! No one in the media had the basic wherewithal to note these discrepancies either.)

Anyway, the Super Committee will save us, and Ryan would join, if asked, but he's not itching to join it.

Wallace asks Ryan if he'd be as open-minded to compromise as he insists the Democrats need to be, and the answer is "it depends on the spending side of the ledger," and at the very least, he seems to reject the notion of "revenue-neutral tax reform."

Legg Mason guys says that the only thing that will ensure that the very richest people in America will have "confidence" and "certainty" is for old, poor people to get sicker and poorer and die sooner than they might ordinarily have.

Paul Ryan reiterates that he won't be running for president.

But, here's someone who is running for President. Tim Pawlenty! Here is his campaign song:

This guy! I actually thought in 2008 that he might have a future in presidential politics, and it's like he's gone out of his way to chip away at my instincts. Anyway, hit us with your best shot, Tim! Tim? Tim? Can you hear what's going on? No, he evidently can't. He's sitting there with this dumb expression on his face as Wallace tries to get his attention. Man. This is not Pawlenty's fault, but this brief moment is the indelible image that sums up his entire candidacy.

After a second, we're fixed. Will Pawlenty surprise us in the Ames Straw Poll? Pawlenty says, sure but he'll be here for the caucuses! Seriously! He'll make it!

He's getting beaten in the polls by Bachmann, who's spent a sliver of the time in Iowa that Pawlenty has, and Romney, who has gone out of his way to NOT come to Iowa at all. So what gives? Pawlenty isn't worried about the "early polls."

What about all the fussing and feuding with Bachmann? Is it fair to say she's without accomplishments? (Actually, it totally is!) Pawlenty says that he's got the ability to unite people. He's been the guy who "ran an enterprise" and "accomplished things." He compares Bachmann's rhetorical flourish to Obama's suggesting that they are similarly bereft of accomplishment. Wallace asks, if that's a comparison he's making and will stand behind, and the answer of course is no, he'd rather people just learn to like him, instead of always asking him to stand behind his criticism of other people.

The Cato Institute, who have no experience running anything, think that Pawlenty is very good at running things, says Pawlenty, bringing forward an opinion of his leadership that doesn't quite align with, say, "residents of Minnesota."

I think that Pawlenty has said some of the same sentences three or four times in this interview already.

How about that credit downgrade? Wallace points out that S&P didn't like the brinksmanship or the gridlock, but that Pawlenty opposed the deal that WAS eventually struck. "Doesn't that mean that President Pawlenty would be part of the gridlock?" He says, "Absolutely not." Because he will have the "courage to support policies that are anathema to the people who voted for him." (Pawlenty wouldn't have that problem, of course, but it's weird to hear him define "doing whatever the House GOP wants" with "being courageous.")

Doesn't he have to finish 3rd at Ames to stay credible? Pawlenty says he just needs to "show progress" at moving from the back of the pack.

And so it's third-string panel time!

Who has the most "riding" on the debate and the straw poll? York says Pawlenty, because he was just a guest on this show, so SYNERGY. Susan-Person says that TPaw has "a better ground game," and Bachmann is newer at running for President. Wallace points out that the Ames Straw Poll is something like a big dumb game of organization, in which whoever has the best BBQ wins lots of votes.

Powers says, "Mitt Romney is the one to go after." Man, this conversation is so trenchant! Romney is the frontrunner, or something! Good to know!

Williams says that "it's going to be a rough road for Romney." Why? Because maybe in this upcoming debate, people will hit Romney. Williams predicts that "the entire target" of the debate field will be Mitt Romney. (Last time, though, it was President Obama. The only person who got slagged for not hitting Romney was Pawlenty, and that's only because CNN put them in the box together for a moment.)

Rick Perry, is he going to get in, or is he just going to get all revival tenty in Texas with people, forever? York says, "When he enters the race, we'll find out he's not every Republican's cup of tea." Sure thing, mate! Of course, we could say the same thing about everybody in the field. It won't hurt him in Iowa, however, to show "religiosity," says York.

Williams says that the downgrade will be blamed on everyone: Obama's approval rating is low. But Congress, he says, will be the biggest recipient of blame. (Of course, Congress' incumbents are good at dispersing blame across the body and getting re-elected -- if voters were to punish just 20% of incumbents, it would be a demonstration of rage with few precedents.

Wallace wonders if we're going to have another "change" election, and Susan Person says yes, probably, maybe. The economy is bad, so poor politicians!

I like how people are quick to attribute the market falloff to a single recent event, and not just assume that massive swings in the Dow won't just be a feature of the system during this period of time when the economy is totally destroyed! When the market climbed, did everyone really assume that everything was fixed? People are just strange!


Today, we'll have politicians yelling at each other and more begging S&P for some succor. It shall be begged from their managing director, who looks like a character Will Forte would play on Saturday Night Live. Gene Sperling hates their downgrade and the pronouncements, which came bundled with a $2 trillion error. S&P guy says that their message has been consistent, and the economy is in shambles, and the political gridlock is...gridlocky. And they have a negative outlook going forward.

How long until America is back in the S&P's good graces? "If history is a guide, it could take a while." oedipus should tear out his eyes and banish himself from Thebes, immediately.

"It was a pity that the Simpson-Bowles commission wasn't followed through on," S&P guys says, of the commission that never managed to agree on a plan to send to COngress, who hoped that they'd be unable to be sent a plan in the first place.

"I think that people over time will come to see that America's credit standing really isn't quite the same as the ones we rate triple-A," says the S&P guy. Of note, all of the remaining triple-A rated nations have something interesting in common.

And now, we have Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Ahh, it's going to be very Irish! O'Malley versus the leprechaun! Erin go bragh! The pipes are piping, for our lost credit rating.

O'Malley says that Tea Party sotted Washington is keeping American from a balanced approach to governing. Indeed, this downgrade, such as it is, is like a trophy they should be awarded. Will there be some sort of wake up call, about the lack of cooperation? Sessions says that the Democratic Senate needs to cooperate by not having autonomy or opinions about issues. But the President will get GOP support if he starts doing things that are traditional Republican policies.

Amanpour asks if there's any chance Sessions' party will "give ground on their sacred cows," and what's the point of asking this question a million times. I think it's very possible to objectively say that the answer is no. (By the RNC's own admission, the Democrats are willing to carve up their own.)

"In all of that," says O'Malley, "I never heard the distinguished Senator say the word 'jobs.'" Oh, great. Planning to use that line, were you? What about the preceding question should have led to Sessions talking about jobs, though? "I never heard the distinguished Senator change the subject to another subject and then not say the word that I decided I'd hit for not saying before I came on this show." O'Malley's office probably wrote the press release, celebrating this AWESOME BURN last night.

But okay, jobs, anyway. O'Malley says that lots of people are looking for jobs, and that Sessions "worships at the altar of the false god of tax cuts," and there's "good people in the GOP who want the economy to get better," and well, who are these people who don't worship at the false god of tax cuts? We'll never know, because now Sessions and O'Malley are talking over each other, but it's not very Irish. It's mild and tame, like two brands of Mayonaisse competing for the same turkey sandwich.

Eventually, O'Malley stops talking and there's some word-salad from Sessions, and Amanpour takes control of the room again. Sessions says the plan which came about through the kabuki that led to the downgrade will be insufficient to relieve the downgrade. Surprise, surprise: this is why you are supposed to RAISE THE DEBT CEILING WITHOUT FANFARE like everyone else does and then HAVE A STRUCTURED DEBATE OVER FISCAL POLICY like is says you are supposed to do in your job description. How much confidence is one supposed to have in a government that features one side that says, "I want to blow up the global economy," another side that knuckles under to that threat and refuses to call it insane, with an end result being the Super Romper Room Committee To Help Congress Offload The Bare Minimum Of Their Job Description, Complete With Triggers Pointed At Everyone's Ponies? Isn't that the kind of society you encounter only after you've gone through the looking glass?

Any O'Malley says that half of the Republican voters want a "balanced approach." So there you have it! Some people want to have some stuff that might not mean the same thing to other people who want different stuff but who maybe still call it a "balanced approach" because it's all relative.

What a useful talk shot segment THAT was. I was promised a shillelagh fight!

Panel time already with George Will and Cokie Roberts and Jason Chaffetz and Steve Rattner and Mellody Hobson.

How bad is the downgrade? Will says it's not so bad, and it won't have much effect on anything, because S&P has a terrible reputation, having missed the financial crisis (I would go so far as to say they "abetted" it). He calls their political analysis "half-baked" and "not entitled to respect." "What did we learn that we didn't know already?" Will asks.

Roberts disagrees that the downgrade will not have an impact, materially on the economy, but more importantly it will have an impact on Obama's re-election hopes. CAN WE GO BACK AND PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT THE IMPACT IT MAY HAVE ON NORMAL HUMANS, THOUGH? No? PLEASE? NO? SIGH.

Today is really pretty extraordinary. Half the people on teevee look as if they only just realized that the economy was terrible, and are surprised to learn that someone might enshrine that opinion publicly, and the other half are like, "Yeah, we know, the economy is terrible, but we're so bored about it that S&P's rating really is just a yawner."

Hobson agrees with Will, that S&P is terrible. "Do we actually believe that America is less creditworthy than it was three years ago?" Well, perhaps "creditworthy" isn't the marker. How about, "How do we rate America's seeming awareness of their own predicament?" and "How do we rate America's ability to solve it's own problems?" and "How are ordinary Americans poised to race back and start contributing to the productive economy?" Faced with those questions, who would give America one "A," let alone three? I think it's actually possible for S&P to be a company of mistake-prone, syphilitic pukes with no business rating anything AND AT THE SAME TIME not be controversial to say that America is punching itself in the face, politically, while everyone gets poorer and poorer and the middle class starts to permanently recede. The S&P rating is the dead dog that nevertheless has seen a ray of sunlight alight upon it.

Anyway, while it's worth pointing out that S&P missed the financial meltdown, one could also say that everyone missed it. (And, again, maybe S&P didn't so much "miss it," as they did "help cause it.")

Rattner says that S&P has no credibility, but it's embarrassing that they've downgraded us. Huh?

Jason Chaffetz is very proud of the fact that he's mistaken the "debt ceiling" as something that's related to "future spending policies." Rattner counters by saying that Obama's $4 trillion in cuts/$1 trillion in revenues/raise the Medicare elegibility age Grand Bargain would have averted the downgrade, and I'm inclined to agree.

Chaffetz says that he compromised! O RLY? In his opinion, "Cut, Cap, and Balance" was a "compromise." Rattner points out that it wasn't, and Chaffetz protests that it was because he would have agreed to raise the debt ceiling. See, to Chaffetz, agreeing to do what you are inextricably obliged to do is "compromise." That's like me telling my landlord, "I'll compromise with you, and pay my rent." My landlord's going to say, "Yeah, you'll pay your rent because I have your name on a lease agreement." Like I said last week, the mistake the White House made was not putting a sign outside the White House that read, "Bring me a clean debt ceiling raise or go the F&%k home." Instead, he basically suggested that the lease agreement was the start of a bargain, instead of a contract. And that's part of why Chaffetz believes that fulfilling an obligation is something he's magnanimously agreed to do out of the kindness of his heart.

Chaffetz is mad at Harry Reid for tabling the Balanced Budget Amendment do-thickey, even though it was John McCain who went all Middle Earth on it.

Meanwhile, everyone hates Congress. Hobson says that the "average person" could give a crap about the downgrade. People care about jobs. "Nothing else matters," she says. "Everything is local." Rattner says that budget cutting is something he agrees is the correct fiscal policy, but he points out, rightly, that it's not something that will have an impact on jobs. Will says BLAH STIMULUS DIDN'T WORK. (It didn't because it was not effectively designed in the first place, and I'm afraid that has as much to do with COngressional Democrats like EVan Bayh and Ben Nelson as it does with anyone else.)

Chaffetz says that "we need predictability." I'll point out was the market collapsed in 2008 in large part because everyone believed that their M.I.T. quants had built them a system of permanent predictabilty and safety. "Predictability" and "certainty" are overrated market forces. We need the return of "abject terror" and "ruthless accountability."

Perry may run and Will likes his chances, because of Perry's success at creating a minimum-wage underclass in Texas. Chaffetz backs Romney, as he's made clear already.

I don't know what I did wrong, TiVo wise, but much of the second half of the show is cut off, so I'll just send along the segments I missed:

Syria has pretty much disintegrated into total chaos. ""The violence that the Syrian government is inflicting on Syrian protesters, from our point of view, is grotesque. It's abhorrent," says Robert Ford, our Ambassador to Syria.

And here is Amanpour's interview with feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

Why can't my TiVo accidentally cut off...


Ha. This is getting to be MEET THE PRESS' mission statement: "With the economy in distress, how will our troubles affect the race for the White House." I am pretty sure that David Gregory really doesn't have the right to be using the word "our" in that instance.

Anyway, some combination of Austan Goolsbee and Alan Greenspan and Alex Castellanos and Rachel Maddow will be paneling on this. First, We'll have John "Treebeard" Kerry and John "Cranky" McCain yelling at each other, because they both need to cross it off their bucket list. (Also, I think McCain gets an IHOP coupon for every MEET THE PRESS appearance he makes.)

Gregory wants to know if Kerry's reaction to the recent losses incurred by Seal Team 6 in Afghanistan more like "Why are we still in this war" or "Why aren't we in this war even better?" Kerry says that his first reaction is loss and gratitude and sadness. As to the war itself, "we are in a transition" in Afghanistan. "Notice there were seven Afghans there," Kerry says, noting the presence of Afghan commandoes among the dead. So...that's...good news? O-kay!

Gregory points out that this "transition" could also be describes as one in which we leave territory to the Taliban to retake. Kerry insists out military efforts have been "extraordinarily successful." There is a "broad struggle" for power between the Karzai government and terrorists and a host of ethic groups and tribes...which sounds really complicated. "Our presence must continue to diminish," Kerry insists, but we "won't be getting out completely," because then the Taliban will retake the country. I don't understand this strategy -- we get out, but not totally, because we don't want the Taliban to take over, which they do from whereever we depart.

Oh well, some Afghan forces died this week! Good news! Transition! Maybe the last man to die for this mistake won't be American!

Meanwhile, on the S&P downgrade. Kerry says it's a "partial wakeup call." "I believe this is the Tea Party downgrade," he says. And he builds a fair case: "This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal. To do $4.7 trillion, $4 trillion. Have a mix of reductions and reforms in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but also recognize that we needed to do some revenue."

What will occlude this truth, of course, is the way everyone voted! Regardless, this is the result of the hostage-taking. So the hostage-takers own the downgrade, and if the analysis is correct that 1.8 million lost jobs are coming as a result of the deal, the hostage takers own the unemployment crisis, too.

Kerry has faith that John McCain and some of his Senate colleagues are capable of solving the problem, with him, and quickly. Not sure about the "quick" part! Kerry says that the plan is "send a message" that makes "$4 trillion plus" in cuts, balance the budget without an amendment. He cites, correctly, that the debt is driven primarily through Bush-era tax cuts, financial sector bailouts, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. BUT HE ALSO JUST SAID THAT WE NEED TO STAY IN AFGHANISTAN. So, is this serious? Is this credible? Kerry wants to cut $4 trillion or more, but he won't lay a hammer or tong to the things he's just cited as drivers?


Kerry also wants more investment in infrastructure, but where are the votes? He says patent reform will lead to job growth, but all sorts of people I trust tell me that's a complete load. Where are the votes for it, anyway?

Here's McCain. He agrees that there is dysfunction in government, but he thinks that the Tea Party isn't responsible for it. He then just straight up lies: "The fact is that the president never came forward with a plan. I was gratified to hear that he had plans, but there was never a specific plan. There was always the so called leading from behind."

No, there were plans, they were specific, and you heard about them before today, unless you've been living under a rock and your staff is full of total morons. As cited already, there was a plan put forward by the White House, in July, that was in all the newspapers, that included $4 trillion in cuts/$1 trillion in revenues/entitlement reform, and the RNC remembers it well enough to criticize the White House for wanting to make cuts to Medicare (the same thing the RNC wants to do). I missed the special meeting where everyone in the media lined up to drink the waters of Lethe and forget that day ever happened, but Boehner rejected that deal despite the fact it was the deepest cuts anyone offered.

Gregory reminds McCain that he criticized the Tea Party very recently, which bugged Sharron Angle to no end because he campaigned for her in Nevada. McCain just keeps on lying about the White House not having a plan. Kerry's "seriousness" had some diminishing returns, but this is a joke from jump street.

I think that McCain just called for widespread mortgage modifications? Do Wall Street banks really want for us to find the bottom of the housing market?

He also says not to pay attention to S&P.

David Gregory reads a John Boehner statement that should have caused Gregory to remark: "My! John Boehner appears to have mistaken the debt ceiling for something that's related to future spending! Is the man illiterate?"

Anyway, McCain wants to "fix entitlements" so we don't end up like Greece, a country in which there was widespread tax avoidance and insolvency.

On raising revenue, McCain says that there's just a fundamental belief that it's improper to raise taxes, but don't call him hidebound and unserious about compromising! He also really thinks that banks aren't investing because they are uncertain about regulation. (They are sitting on the money because their balance sheets are a fantasy sustained by changes to mark-to-market rules, and they are actually insolvent.)

Like Kerry, McCain believes that we need to continue the war in Afghanistan -- a huge driver of our debt -- because he's serious about our fiscal future. Also, what is this nonsense?

DAVID GREGORY: But the reality is, Senator, we've been at this over a decade now...

JOHN MCCAIN: Well, first of all on the 10 year thing -- the fact is that we've only had a surge for a couple of years now since the president announced it, as you know, at West Point. So we've had a very short time.

Oh, wow! I never thought of it like that! We've actually only been at REAL WAR for a short time! Should we have even considered the people who died in the FAKE PART OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN real U.S. soldiers? I am just glad that now we're in the part of the war that counts. Everyone hates the pre-season part of the war, because you can really injure your starters! Now, however, the war is real. (We are doing about as well in the real war as we were in the part that doesn't count for John McCain, which is "not well at all.")

Great work, pair of esteemed American senators! I'm sure S&P is really sorry about saying anything mean about our awesomely functional government!

Okay, now we panel with Rachel Maddow and Alex Castellanos and and Alan Greenspan and Austan Goolsbee.

Greenspan says there's no way of knowing what the markets will do, about the downgrade, but he thinks it will likely be negative. U.S. Treasurys are still safe to invest in, and the two things are not linked. "The S&P hit a nerve that there is something bad going on, and it's hit the self-esteem of the United States." Wow, it's almost been three years since the economy collapsed, and finally someone has decided that having this massive, underreported unemployment crisis should be something that affects our "self-esteem."

Goolsbee thinks we had better agree on a bipartisan basis to do some things of limited efficacy, so that we can at least prove to the world we can at least come together to do some stuff that is half-assed.

Greenspan says that Italy is causing most of Europe's problems, and our own, so suck it, Italy, I'm not sorry we sent those Jersey Shore douchebags over there!

Maddow wonders is any of the recent news -- DOW, downgrade -- will change what's politically feasible. For example -- a deal on revenue, for which S&P calls. Castellanos differs, and Maddow reads him what S&P actually says.

Thanks to David Gregory's need to read us a Paul Krugman column, we have our first mention of the unemployed.

Will we look back and say, it was wrong to get into a deficit reduction conversation? Goolsbee says it's possible. He also says that we can't achieve growth by going back to "consuming more than we're earning" (credit card debt) and building residential homes (misallocating resources for the benefit of building bubbles). What if that's the only stuff we're good at, anymore?

Castellanos says that no one will invest as long as Obama says that wealthy people should have to pay taxes, or something? Everyone should now go read Alex Pareene's piece, "The baffling paranoia of rich guys who resent Obama."

Maddow asks Castellanos what taxes Republicans will concede to raising or what loopholes they'd consider closing, and the answer is "none," but there's a lot of blather? Let's do it America! Let's tax Alex Castellanos' blather.

GOOLSBEE: "I guess I just keep asking for the sake of the economy can't we wait on the things that we're going to yell at each other about and start on the things that we agree on." Ha, that's what Sweden did, remember? Everyone who liked yelling at each other decided that they liked having a Sweden to live in more! So they gave ground to each other and forged actual solutions that achieved actual stability, and now everyone's back at arguing over the long-term trajectory of the country and the short term choices again. And you know what? Both sides earned the right to debate each other, because they demonstrated maturity when it was most necessary.

MADDOW: "To the extent that we are taking the S&P downgrade as a serious thing. That we believe that S&P has the credibility to have done this and this actually does levy a blow against the U.S. economic credibility. I mean, honestly, we should talk about the fact that during the financial crisis S&P was handing out AAA ratings to any pile of junk tall enough to reach the doorbell and ask, so they do not have the most credibility on this. But if we are going to take them seriously, let's take them on their word about why they did this. They said they did this because of brinksmanship over the debt ceiling. They did not say they did this because there's too much government spending."

David Gregory wants to squeeze in a discussion of Afghanistan at the end, because it surely has nothing to do with our current problems! But first he wants to talk about Rick Perry, because Perry is "trending" ahead of the people who just died in Afghanistan. Why aren't the people who died in Afghanistan not "trending?" Probably because they were less-than-worthy people.

Now we are replaying scenes from today's Meet The Press, which is where I turn this show off, now.

Anyway, America got downgraded, because someone noticed that we have some economic problems, or something. That's my takeaway, from another weird, sad Sunday.

I hope everyone can at least have a triple-A rated week at whatever you all do, which I assume you do better than our nation's politicos and pundits do at theirs.

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