Isle of Moolah
It seems like everyone is looking for a safe place to stash their cash in the wake of Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the credit rating of the United States from AAA to AA+.
The U.S. had earned the triple-A standard since 1917, through two World Wars and the Great Depression. But when a gaggle of fiscal fanatics stood up in the U.S. House of Representatives recently and declared that default would not be a big deal, the ratings agency took them at their word and snipped a piece off Uncle Sam’s credit card.
So who is more creditworthy than the United States? Here is the list of remaining AAA standard-bearers:
Isle of Man
It comes as no surprise that the Scandanavian countries are a group entry on the AAA roster. When was the last time a Norwegian told you he’d gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger he wants to eat this afternoon?
Canada also deserves its recognition as a bastion of fiscal sanity. Our neighbors to the north had the good sense to maintain the barrier between real banks and investment casinos during the housing boom. The Canadians emerged from the global bust with nary a scratch.
We have to admit our eyebrows raised a bit when we spotted the United Kingdom in triple-A land. Like most of those who watched smugly from these shores as the new coalition government in the U.K. enacted a draconian austerity program to cope with soaring debt, we assumed the Brits were further down the road to fiscal ruin than their former colonies here in the New World.
Not so. It seems our cousins across the pond have swallowed their fiscal medicine with a traditional stiff upper lip. More importantly, according to the ratings agencies, they completely avoided the “brinksmanship” that has consumed Washington in recent months.
We suspect that Germany’s ironclad AAA may soon decay as Europe’s central banker is forced to choose between absorbing a big chunk of the red ink pouring out of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Greece or saying auf wiedersehen to the Euro.
It’s hard to quibble with any of the remaining members of the triple-A club — until you stumble across the pseudo-nation known as The Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is a speck floating in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The island has been inhabited since before 6500 B.C. and its original Norse-Gaelic culture has been ruled by kings of Scotland and England for centuries. In 1399, it was put under a “feudal overlordship” of the English crown until 1764, when it was “revested” under the British crown.
For some unknown reason, the island was never integrated into the United Kingdom. To date, Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state (under the title of Lord of Mann).
In other words, when the residents of Isle of Man run up a ridiculous tab in food and grog at their annual Stonehenge festival, they put it on the Queen’s credit card, which is backed by the crown jewels. Anyone who tries to collect has to grab the tiara off Elizabeth’s head.
No doubt these debts are written off before the ink is dry. After all, who wants to reside in the Tower of London?
Doesn’t seem fair to us that the U.S. is now looking up at Isle of Man on the international credit rating list. Canada, yes. Norway and Finland, of course.