The Standard Is Getting Poorer
Disclaimer: Though this story talks about American economy, I am not going to bombard you with words such as GDP, recession, Fed, Eurozone, austerity, debt, deficit and default. It’s a view as seen from a layman’s eyes.
This conversation involves three characters: My cousin Vaibhav (an avid reader of The Economic Times), my mother (a non-MBA, totally naive about the economic terms mentioned in the disclaimer above) and I (who needs no introduction). Most of the conversation took place in Marathi. However, I have translated it in English as this site does not have the facility of subtitles.
On a bright (and surprisingly sunny, considering India’s new-found, never-ending monsoon) Sunday morning, I was busy gathering the pages of The Economic Times scattered all over the living room, courtesy the super-fast fan. My mother dropped in and switched off the fan. As she bagged her Marathi newspaper to read, my cousin entered the scene and took hold of The Economic Times. Left empty-handed, I picked up a pamphlet and joined the reading session.
“Standard & Poor’s has downgraded US’ credit rating from AAA to AA-Plus,” Vaibhav fired the opening salvo. He is in his element while discussing how the US should go for more austerity measures. At the same time, he hates anyone who advises him to cut down on his shopping and fuel expenditure.
“AAA, AA…..these sound like battery sizes….sort of Duracell,” the non-MBA character in the room said with a poker face. “They are not battery sizes, but credit ratings by a company called Standard & Poor’s,” Vaibhav clarified after recovering from a burst of laughter.
“What name is that? How sub-standard and poor the creativity of people who named that company,” my mom continued with her fours and sixers.
The ratings downgrade made me nostalgic. Back in the nineties, in any city in India, when people asked a kid what he wanted to do after growing up, his answer was tailor-made: I want to go to America. Nowadays, I understand, when a kid in Manhattan or Florida is asked the same question, his answer is: Maybe I will go to India. The kid is quite right. Half of American jobs are with us. Perhaps, when he comes to India for a job, he will feel homely while handling calls of his countrymen.
As far as Indians are concerned, America has been replaced by Tihar jail as the most sought-after place.
“So does that mean the US kept on borrowing for the last 50 years, and never bothered to return the money?” asked my mom.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Our farmers are better than the US then. At least they commit suicide and put an end to borrowing. US leaders won’t even do that,” my mom.
“So when Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US to AA-Plus, I learnt Obama downgraded Standard & Poor’s to AIIC….As If I Care!” I commented, trying to match my mom’s sense of humour.
“So the real smart dude in this whole episode has been China. It loaned and loaned to the US until Uncle Sam forgot the count of his debt and the date of returning it,” Vaibhav said, showering his accolades on the inventors of triple shezwan fried rice (though I don’t know whether this menu item actually originated in China or at some road-side Chinese stall).
“Now, whenever the US will ask China to improve on human rights, China will ask the US to first return its money,” mom said, indicating that she may be the next subscriber of The Economic Times.
Few days back, I saw the movie 2012, which shows the world nearing an end. I think, the movie should have shown America coming to an end and the Chinese flag fluttering over the White House (and on the top of most other nations’ official buildings) in the years to come.
“I mean, why did US fight all these wars by borrowing a loan? This is like decorating your girlfriend’s house by borrowing money from your wife,” Vaibhav went wayward with his reasoning.
“Yup. So many wars they have indulged in. Vietnam war, Gulf war, Afghanistan war, Iraq war, Star Wars,” I tried to outclass Vaibhav in wayward reasoning.
“Hehe!!” Vaibhav endorsed my joke.
“So, who is to be blamed for this American mess? Taliban? Al-Qaeda? Or the American government?” he asked me, as if I really knew the answer.
“Columbus. He should have kept quiet after discovering America,” I fired the closing salvo, leaving Vaibhav and my mom in splits.