Saturday, August 13, 2011

It All Adds Up

OF A, B, C, S and P's

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 Paula. 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 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  or Sister Paula might give us a good spanking for the downgrades.


  1. lol...true...but did you see where India is in that list??? Poor Obama became president in the wrong time...USD is in trouble and now Euro is also of little help...last time depression happened in Amrika they came out of it with WW-II..r we heading towards WW-III? thank god i do not invest in share market...

  2. As Bachi Karkaria so succinctly put it - from AmericAAA to AmericAA....

    And the Chinaman is having the last laugh.

    The post was like a glass of Champagne :)

  3. I still am nil when it comes to economy but I'm loving the facial expressions of Obama and Steve Jobs.

  4. hahaaa....perhaps, this is what happens when kids get overconfident after getting AAA.....

    Nice Post.

  5. Loved your linking your report card to that of America. Economic supremacy was one stick that the US was beating the rest of the world with, but now it looks like China has snatched that stick and poor India is suffering 'cos no matter who the stick is with, we are at the receiving end :D

  6. @SUB...Weare an embarassing BBB-. The next review is in November and the govt is hoping for an upgrade.

    @Purba...Hic! Thanks.

    @Prateek..The worst part is that when they sneeze we catch cold.

  7. @Irfanuddin...Yes, their overconfidence is proving costly for the entire planet.Bachpan se spanking nahi is difficult to sudharo them now after 7 decades.

    @Zephyr...I love the succint manner in which you summarise my posts. Bingo!

  8. hehehe.. loved you acidic tone ;)

  9. Hahah :)))

    Though ratings have a meaning, it is not as much as people think. Americans, Stock markets and media like to REACT on any trigger......

  10. And the awesome part is when Steve Jobs is $1 Billion above entire US. :p

  11. This is a wonderful satirical post. Despite serious issue of the economics going in the dumps, the post brings lots of smiles. :)

  12. i am waiting for pronob da to mr genius sibbal to come up wid some brilliant calculation on how we shudnt worry about the losses

  13. @Madhulika...:)

    @A...Yes, markets loose confidence easily and the world starts sinking. Another agency might tell another story. Markets react on perceptions.

    @Prateek...Then they should go to Apple with a begging bowl and not to China.

  14. @Kunnu...The smaller boats has no option but to smile and sink with the big ship.Thanks. :)

    @Maniac.hunter....Mighty Pranab da might come up with something believable but Sibals clever calculations are laughable.His chicanery is not going to fool anyone.

  15. always u are so upbeat and my dose of political knowledge and general awareness...and my god, if this is what happens to someone with "poor" maths grades I wonder what adjective to use for my maths ability now-super impoverished!:(

    and i also invested a little teeny weeny amount years back n forgot about it thinking it would make me super rich in my old age-i guess it's time to give up on that thought, na?:)

  16. wonderful analysis!
    and as you concluded you have to rob peter to pay paul..

  17. Very well written. Even though I don't know much about how this downgrading will affect us and even what it basically means, I enjoyed your article. You write keeping all your readers in mind. :)

  18. Sorry to learn about your loss at the bourses. There are inhenerent advantages of coming down though: you obviously cannot tear the floor and go further below! Ask India which ebjoys a solid BBB- by the S&P. (O, that 'C' is a myth!)

    About that saying, 'what goes up, comes down', it is easy to forget that what comes down can only go up again. 'UP' appears to be the only way our poor country may go, if only the crooked politicians could loosen the death grip...

    And I cannot, nor can you, do anything about the if onlys of life.

  19. Simply wonderful!!

    As you said, you definitely cant trust these agencies. After all, they simply overlook the credit crisis 3 years back.

  20. wonderful post...d A B C D analogy was empahtic,genuine impressv writing, bt all i can say dat if today we follow/depend on america, tomorrow probably dey wil follow us, we r emerging nation n so we needed some strong shoulder,n hence some ups n downs r quite possible.afterall what goes up, must come down

  21. @Suruchi...Go for gold. But honestly my maths was pathetic! And it continues to be.

    @Deepak...And poor Peter continues to toil while Paul continues to overspend. Not in my lifetime.

    @Ajay...Thanks, it means a lot.This one was from the heart.As I said, I dread maths till date.

  22. @Umashankar...Your comment with a mix of optimism and cynicism, rightfully reflects the mood of the nation. We have so much to be optimistic about but for lack of leadership and governance.

    @Vyankatesh...Long time.

    In todays TOI, 'Swaminomics' says that this downgrade could be a ploy to make sure that Obama does not come to power again. It could be a politicaly motivated. Who knows? But the world suffers.

  23. @Vineet...Thank you for your kind words. Now that the downgrade jitters are over people are thinking that it could be a political ploy to make sure that Obama is out in the next elections.
    We will never know.

  24. ROFL......this is just about the what is happening in the world....The bad boys of The World Economy are again Politicions again. Whether in India or USA.The alleged money kept in various German, Swiss bank etc by our nethas who ever its ,Which every party he or she belongs to who controls thier income without paying any tax. If sibals, PCs can protect such people, our economy will be in controls of few So called Gandhis, congress parties and few reddys, and hassan allis. Long live mokh democrocey.May you save your selves as God cannot.

  25. @Shalini....True. Now this reply is worth its weight in gold, cause I know you are writing this while you are on a vacation sipping hot chai and watching tigers. If my write up could distract you away from the tigers then surely, there must be something.Or did I force it down your throat by posting it on your wall...ha ha...either ways I am happy.

  26. No matter how complexly the whole world is intertwined among each other, yet, America seems to be in the center of it, at least for stock markets of countries like India. For us, it's like they are saying 'If we fall, we all fall',

    khud to doobe hain sanam, tum ko bhi le doobenge. :P

    Oh and I too am glad to know that the ability for mathematics is inborn. :D

    Nice post. BTW where is the third category of people? :P

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  27. yes the american rating has hit hard for all!feel sad for u alka:)u will recoevr it soon hopefully:)

  28. Let their rankings fall, they deserve it because of their bad record. But then our markets are hit hard, and that is so bad. So, we pay even if they make the mistakes.

  29. @Anshul...We fall and take you along...

    I am wondering too where is the third category? Let me try and add up on my fingers and I will revert back.


    @Rachna...When the big ship sinks, it takes smaller ones along...hope we are strong enough to hold on.

  30. Lot of my friends who hated maths in school (including I), found the nightmares returning back when it was time to help our children with their homeworks! Now that I am in grandfather age, I can afford to be dismissive and ask, "what does it matter all this maths business?" :)

  31. lol
    corrupt government officers enjoy and we the citizens pay for their enjoyment through taxes

  32. hey. nice write up. how true..u r right- one pays another eats.
    catch me on

  33. @Sunil...So you can understand my plight but yes, who cares now and thank God my son took mathematical genes from his father.

    @sm...True. It is very frustrating when the same taxes land in Swiss banks.

    @Sush...Welcome here. Will do.

  34. Hmmmm...Funny but thoughtful post. America's debt woes bogs down the world's economy. Our sensex has no hopes of rising before Diwali. Bears bug the market and the entire nation's debt is on everyone's shoulders. i hate our own Economist Laurate- PM. PC and MMS could do nothing to save our faces and backs:(

  35. Well summed up... kinda reality unleashed.
    Loved the sarcasm behind those words :)

    Math ability is inborn--- Thank god :P

  36. liked the way u wrote. but not enuf good at the part of economy. :(

  37. "math ability is inborn" now that was very informative..Trust you to reduce my guilt!
    Sadly its all about grades and numbers and a mad rush to maintain the AAAs,economy or math!

  38. @Cloudnine...The situation changes daily with upgrades, downgrades and announcements...lets hope Diwali brings cheer.

    @Jyoti..U in the same boat?

    @Some unspoken words...Thanks for reading.

    @Erraticthoughts...ha, ha you too. Welcome aboard.

  39. You are awesome! You made the whole USA down grading into such an interesting read!

    On the other hand, this was bound to happen. Indian can only become a economic super power, if America, leaves that pedestal!

    As usual.. very insightful!

  40. @Sakshi...Thank you sweetheart for reading.

  41. Alka, u neednt are not alone...the whole of Indian government is very poor at Maths...they just dont know how to add things up ;)

  42. And I sent so much time reading about the "Why" of the matter. This is so much better and easier on the brains.
    Though mind you my Math is not that bad, but I find Economics quite boring.

    Statutory warning: Graphic imagination in the next half of the comment. Reader discretion is advised.

    Sometimes I feel I should go back in time and enlist in the Hun cavalry of Attila or maybe in the Mongol one under the great Khan. Then the only maths I would need would be to count the heads carried.

  43. Deven Sharma, the Maths teacher in this case, of S&P has paid the price,as he is on his way out!

  44. Alka,

    And Dey-vein Shar-maa paid for it.

    Take care

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