So, on Friday, Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ (along with a lesser reported scaling back of the nation’s fashion sense from “Fierce” to “Vacation Dad”). This should be a shock to no one remotely cognizant of the path the U.S. economy has been on since we decided to enter a post-Bill Clinton Bizarro World where up is down and reasonable taxes on the wealthy is bad while spending trillions (even in U.S. dollars, that’s a lot) on military quagmires apparently doesn’t count.
This revelation that the U.S. Empire has no cash can potentially “rock” the global markets… even though nothing has really changed. The country is as dysfunctional as it was on the Thursday before the announcement and the several thousand Thursdays before that. The closest analogue I can think of is when the story broke in November 2009 that Tiger Woods was cheating on his wife Elin Nordegren with… well everyone but me, it seemed. This punctured the myth of Woods’ squeaky clean image and everything quickly fell apart for him to the point that his financial state now is reportedly as perilous as America’s.
When news broke a few weeks ago that Tiger Woods had signed an endorsement deal to hawk a heat rub in Japan, it was hard not to think of “Lost in Translation,” or of the “Entourage” episode when Vincent Chase goes to China to do an energy drink commercial because he’s out of money.
Although Woods was likely paid in the single-digit millions for the spot — in which he takes a swing, rubs his back, and says, “Go Vantelin!” — it’s a far cry from campaigns for PepsiCo, Gillette, and Accenture. The last time Woods showed up in Japanese TV ads was in 1997, when he promoted Asahi Wonda coffee, back before he became a phenomenon. So the deal with Kowa (maker of the rub) seems more like a moment of desperation than a return to form.
It’s no secret that Woods, once king of the sports world, has suffered financially since his fall from grace. His endorsement list shrank and his marriage ended in a divorce settlement reportedly worth $100 million. But now he may actually be hurting for funds. At the very least, there are signs that he isn’t generating enough to comfortably cover his costs.
Let’s contrast this to June 13, 1994 when O.J. Simpson most likely killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Here you have a clear, pre-and-post murder line in the sand. On June 12, Simpson was the former athlete who starred in the “Naked Gun” movies and advertised cowboy boots in old comic books. On June 13, he brutally murdered two people. This can cast a pall on your enjoyment of his hijinks as Nordberg and shake your confidence in his recommendations for appropriate footwear.
America’s June 13 was December 12, 2000 when George W. Bush won — more or less — the presidency. Prior to that date, the U.S.was riding high on the wave of Clinton-era prosperity… then we decided to go in another direction. Once the horrible act took place, it was hard to look at the U.S. the same way. The country still defiantly stuck around, claimed it was unjustly maligned, but no one cared to listen.
However, Woods apparently was always an adulterous rake — our eyes were just finally opened to the reality. Thus, the Standard and Poor’s downgrade is the SUV crash that exposes the U.S. economy for what it truly is. In both instances, there were furious P&R spins and post-mortems. Remember how they trotted out the theory that Woods might be a sex addict, which is a B.S. diagnosis for a lifelong case of douchebaggery? The U.S. is equally addicted to doing everything that S&P claims caused the downgrade — partisan sniping and a pathological denial of how the economy works.
Unfortunately, unlike Woods, the U.S. has no interest in entering rehab — even if just for show. Nothing can tame this country’s arrogance and need to blame others for its ills. Has this country — by its own reckoning — ever done anything wrong? As expected, this weekend we got more of the same on the Sunday morning news Talking Points Swap Meets. Here is where we get out of Tiger’s SUV and hop into the slow-moving Bronco with O.J. Our destination is inexorable. And a Michele Bachmann presidency — heck, even just a GOP nomination — is about as pathetic an end to the American experiment as Simpson’s final fate.
But who knows, Japan might be interested in the U.S. shilling heat rubs for them.