In the light of today's decision by Standard and Poor's to downgrade the rating on Spain's debt I've decided that this could be a good moment to set up my own international credit ratings agency. Now I realise that some will immediately object and wonder what qualifications I may have for adopting such a role? However, given that this question doesn't seem to be asked of the other operators in the market I see no reason whatsoever to respond on that issue.
In any case the rules are perfectly simple. Any financial services product from UK or US financial institutions, no matter how fraudulent and worthless it may be, is automatically given at least a triple A rating. If the investors in the package are pension funds or any other place where the little people put their savings then we can add a "+" to the rating because the effects of the scam will naturally be far wider and probably more profitable for those behind it. The same applies if the institution producing the package is at the same time betting against the success of its own product. No evident credibility problems there, so top rating.
With countries that have debts we adopt a slightly different tactic. Firstly, if it's the country where your agency is based or has significant commercial interests then just pretend that you haven't seen the debt. In other cases you start high and just work your way down notch by notch until the country in question starts screaming. It's best to start with the least powerful and then once the trend is established you can move on to the others - always of course obeying the key "don't piss on your own doorstep" rule.
Now of course you need to give a formal reason for each downgrade in a country's credit rating, but this is easy. I mean if S&P's can get away with using "sluggish economic growth" at a time when virtually every country is suffering from that problem then its hardly an issue. Apart from anything else, the effect of constantly downgrading the rating has the great virtue of creating even more new reasons for further downgrades. The next logical step will be to downgrade again, because - obviously - the poor credit rating has now made the country's debt even more expensive and harder to service; so a further downgrade is just inevitable. Inability to pay the debt because the credit rating has collapsed obviously has to be left to the end.
In the event of any objections that a country's debt has increased because of the consequences of the financial crisis, the best answer is simply "Crisis? Where?". We need to play hard to get on that one. Clearly any country that takes too long in privatising or simply closing key public services may need to be egged on a bit with sharper cuts in their ratings. I know it's a dirty job but someone has to do it. Then, at some point, just to show that those of us in the ratings business have a sense of humour too, we'll do another downgrade for some surreal reason such as concern about lengthening waiting lists in hospitals or because poverty is rising too much! Just for fun...and of course to make a profit on an honest days work.