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Europe's anger grows towards US debt police

David Wroe · 15 Jul 2011, 14:40

Published: 15 Jul 2011 14:40 GMT+02:00

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Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch famously gave Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers and insurer AIG healthy ratings on the very eve of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Yet despite having their reputations severely tarnished by past blunders, the major American credit ratings agencies are now playing a pivotal – and highly controversial – role in Europe’s debt crisis.

Last week, Moody’s abruptly downgraded Portugal’s credit rating four levels to ''junk'' status, effectively ending the beleaguered nation’s hopes of issuing bonds in the near future - a move German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble branded ''incomprehensible.'' This followed what many European politicians considered to be poorly timed downgrades of Greek and Spanish debt last year.

On top of this, Standard & Poor’s recently torpedoed a French-German plan to have private banks voluntarily contribute to the next bailout of Greece, by warning that it would likely constitute a default by the debt-laden Mediterranean country.

Anger is growing among European leaders, particularly in Germany. Former Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle, now the parliamentary leader for the pro-business Free Democratic Union, offered on Friday the latest and most detailed attack on the agencies.

Brüderle said blind faith in the judgements of “the opinion oligopoly of the three big US agencies” was one reason why risks in financial markets have been recognised too late. He called for “more competition through the establishment of an independent and privately financed EU ratings agency,” business daily Handelsblatt reported.

There is no doubt the leading credit agencies wield extraordinary power by passing judgement on those who borrow money, be they companies or countries. But are they too powerful, as the German government is now claiming? Are their prophecies self-fulfilling? And are they, as many critics argue, pushing Europe deeper into crisis?

“It’s absurd to accuse the ratings agencies of partial responsibility or even culpability in the horrendous state debt in the US or the eurozone,” Thomas Straubhaar, director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, told The Local. “A legitimate question, however, is whether the ratings agencies have warned in good time of the looming bankruptcy of Greece or other overindebted nations and whether their assessments are part of the solution or part of the problem.”

Unrealistic expectations

It’s not that they are bad at their job. Rather, the business is plagued by a lack of competition, conflicts of interest and unrealistic expectations. Accurately predicting a debtor's ability to repay is inherently problematic – a fact that neither the agencies nor the financial world properly acknowledges.

“How scientific is finance?” said Stefan Homburg, director of the Institute for Public Finance at Hannover’s Leibniz University, rhetorically when asked about how scientific ratings’ agencies methods actually are.

Homburg, as it happens, defends the agencies, arguing they have improved since the 2008 crisis. Back then, they were blasted for being too generous in their assessments. Now they are effectively being attacked for being too strict.

“It is not reasonable to attack them precisely on the grounds that they have become more critical,” Homburg told The Local.

Too much power?

Still, many European leaders, including those in Germany, have deep misgivings about the disproportionate influence of the three US-based firms on the European debt crisis.

Straubhaar agreed that more competition was essential. The agencies make money by charging the companies who want a rating and also subscriptions for detailed ratings reports. Ratings agencies that make bad predictions should lose business and those that are timely and accurate should prosper.

But he said there was an clear market failure in that it is very expensive to get into the business of rating the world's credit and the big three currently have 90 percent of the market share.

One suggestion canvassed has been to establish a European ratings agency as a counterweight to the big three. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed the idea, while stressing it must be driven by the private sector, not by any government. Others, including Würzburg University’s Peter Bofinger, one of Germany’s economic “wise men,” advocate a state-run ratings agency.

Indeed, moves to set up a European agency are already underway. The management consultant Roland Berger, the federal state of Hesse, Frankfurt Main Finance – which represents the city’s finance industry – and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange are working on a plan to establish an independent rating agency in Frankfurt.

Unlike the big three, which get paid by the companies and entities they rate, raising questions about the impartiality of the ratings, the Frankfurt agency would aim to be more independent. While the details are still being discussed, Roland Berger partner Markus Krall said in a recent statement that financial independence would be “a critical element to reduce conflicts of interest and restore credibility of and confidence in ratings.”

But Straubhaar told The Local that one large European agency would likely share the shortcomings of its American competitors. Having central banks or specially appointed government authorities doing credit checks would also fall short for the same reason.

“Also they would be under suspicion from the outset that they were not independent but were rather playing on the government’s side," he said. "Their evaluations would therefore be tainted in the eyes of investors.”

Stefan Homburg goes even further: “In my opinion, a European rating agency would be extremely dangerous for taxpayers and pensioners. Formed by or under the control of European governments, such a rating agency would be designed only in order to obscure financial problems as long as possible.

Story continues below…

“The intended rating agency would be under heavy pressure to rate Greek, Portuguese and Spanish bonds favourably.”

'Listen to them – if you want'

Another option is that investors simply stop treating ratings agencies’ assessments as Gospel. But this is easier said than done. Institutional investors – mainly banks and insurance funds – are currently obliged by law to listen to the agencies. They are compelled even to respond quickly to changes to ratings, buying and selling according to whether a country or company is upgraded or downgraded.

“The most important investors, for example pension funds and insurance companies, cannot disregard ratings because these are an essential part of the laws governing the operations of these companies,” Homburg said.

Straubhaar argues that this urgently needs to change. He believes that the creation of independent auditors, funded by a compulsory levy on the financial industry, would be a step forward, as would greater transparency on how ratings agencies reach their assessments.

It should also be possible, he argues, to sue poorly performing agencies.

But the biggest change is that investors need to be free to listen to more than just three sources when judging the creditworthiness of a debtor.

“The ratings agencies should no longer play such a dominant role in the decision-making on the capital markets," Straubhaar said. "They should only be one among several opinions. Listen to them – if you want.”

David Wroe (david.wroe@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:02 July 15, 2011 by eveningstar
The real story here is that conflicts of interest have made these Ratings Agencies blatantly corrupt. European leaders have every reason to complain about the recent 'junk' assessments as these moves/manipulations are obviously designed to protect the very same companies that caused the initial financial crisis.
15:16 July 15, 2011 by catjones
The germans want the foxes to count the chickens.
15:33 July 15, 2011 by Bushdiver
The credit rating companies are giving these ratings on basis of debt and economic stability. The Germans may not like what they are doing but to be honest, anyone with a brain can see for example that throwing good money after bad such as the case with Greece is not going to prevent this country from going tits up. The Germans and France have so much invested in Greek debt that they're willing to do anything to try and keep Greece afloat, no matter how rediculous and crazy it is.

If I were a private investor or bank I'd be very leary of buying up bonds or whatever in the hopes that Greece may recover. First of all you don't get out of debt by borrowing more money to pay back the first installment of the previous bailout. The next big cash giveaway will put Greece so deep in the hole that they will never dig out of.
16:15 July 15, 2011 by Loth
Now these same ratings agencies want to downgrade the United States too.
16:39 July 15, 2011 by lunchbreak
The roof is falling in so its time to shoot the messenger. Who's next , Italy, Spain, Portugal...xxx...?
17:23 July 15, 2011 by Englishted

Moody¦#39;s, Standard & Poor¦#39;s and Fitch famously gave Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers and insurer AIG healthy ratings on the very eve of the global financial crisis in 2008.

This alone blows your comment out the water.

About as reliable as Neville Chamberlain's piece of paper promising peace in our time.
17:49 July 15, 2011 by Beachrider
Europe can always invent its own ratings services. Moody and S/P are both private companies, too.
17:50 July 15, 2011 by ritinha
The Euro is just a matter of time. These countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland should all go back to their former currency and leave Germany and France with their Euro. They all have been better off, including Germany when they had their own currencies. Germany and France would never admit their mistakes and therefore they are pumping all this money into supposedly weaker countries. But what is the price put upon a country like Greece? They are actually strangled. All on the backs of the working class and the unemployed. Let Germany go ahead with their politics of "rich should get more rich and poor should stay poor", but please by themselves and not contamine other countries with their sick attitudes. There is enough suffering in this world already.
18:29 July 15, 2011 by lwexcel
Fitch is actually majority owned by a French company called Financière Marc de Lacharrière but who cares about facts when you are trying to cover your butt ;-)
18:33 July 15, 2011 by jg.
Fitch is not a US company but a French company. There goes the US conspiracy theory.

Unlike government-run information sources like the central banks and Eurostat, organisations like Moodys, Standard and Poor's and Fitch are all PRIVATE companies who sell information to their clients, who are investment banks and others with an interest in identifying the best/worst investments and the risks involved. If they consistently provide erroneous information to their clients, they will lose business and ultimately disappear - unlike the central banks and Eurostat, who will produce whatever stories their political bosses demand, paid for with our taxes.

Perhaps the credit ratings of various Eurozone entities would not have deteriorated quite so rapidly had some prominent German politicians not started talk of "haircuts" some months back or more recently, of "forcing" private participation in bail outs. That's almost as stupid as when Gordon Brown gave 3 months notice that he would dump 400 tonnes from the UK's gold reserves on the open market in 2002.

It isn't the credit ratings companies that created the debt problems in the Eurozone - it is the governments of the countries involved, who borrowed lots of money, spent it and now don't have much to show for it or a reasonable prospect of paying it back. If EU fiscal rules had been rigidly applied instead of sweeping things under the carpet to fulfill the EU federalists dream, we would not be in this mess now.
19:29 July 15, 2011 by harcourt
Since the Credit Rating agencies started becoming quite prominent in their pronouncements I don't know what to make of them. On one hand I agree, why shoot the messenger whilst on the other hand they risk becoming self- fulfilling prophesies !! i.e. the markets taking fright and making the situation far worse.
19:45 July 15, 2011 by lwexcel
Some other points would be:

AIG did look very good on paper up until the global financial crisis took place. The reason for this is that most of their exposure to the faulty assets was due to their insuring of credit default swaps. CDS's are private instruments that are not monitored by any repeat ANY agency. There is absolutely no government, or ratings agency oversight for these instruments and that is what brought AIG to their knees. Fitch, Moodys, and S&P had very little if anything to do with that event.

Next, banks and other large institutional investors go against the recommendations of ratings agencies all of the time. If you read through the interview sections of business magazines you will undoubtedly see at least one employee from an institutional investor stating 'I think the ratings agencies have it wrong on this one.' That is how people make money in investing by doing their own analysis and research and deciding whether or not they will put their money into this particular investment. Do you think that banks and institutional investors hire all of these analysts to sit around and pick their noses while waiting for the 'big 3' ratings agencies to tell them how they should invest their money?
20:23 July 15, 2011 by neunElf
The fact that Fitch is majority owned by a French company is a stunner!

Before Schauble goes around shooting his mouth off, maybe he should employ some of the many high paid mandarins to do a little research.

Politicians are superficial and typical of this government they are fanning the flames of populism!
20:26 July 15, 2011 by Landmine
Germans don't like it? Sell an island....
20:30 July 15, 2011 by Englishted

Do you think that banks and institutional investors hire all of these analysts to sit around and pick their noses while waiting for the 'big 3' ratings agencies to tell them how they should invest their money?

I don't know that ,but this crisis was caused by greedy banks and speculators not by the people who are paying the price of having services and pensions cut.

Somewhere along the line we will have to stop these people (wheat speculator for example) putting greed /profit before peoples lives ,so far I'm only going to have to work 1year and 8 months more because of this many more a suffering far worse yet I believe the banks are still paying out sickeningly high wages and bonuses ,"let them eat cake " is the corporate motto but remember what became of her.
20:45 July 15, 2011 by whpmgr
WHo is right? Well, my thoughts, as a dumb SOB:

1. These companies have way too much power. They may (though I doubt it) have good intentions, but, they know they can crush anyone with a downgrade and as such, they can cause rumors and wipe out a company or any government's financial plan.

2. If the governments set up a ratings office, that office will be used to build false confidence in programs that government wants to push.

3. Banks that are allowed to grow too big are a danger to their customers and the economy. If we -in the US, go back to only allowing a bank to operate in one state, we take away the risk that that bank's actions in several states will bring down an entire economy and be too big to fail.....They all need to be cut down to size, form alliances for interstate commerce, and be controlled.

4. It may be devastating now, for a country to fail but!!! If they fail now, and fix the problem, in some years, they will be ahead of every other country who refused to fix the problem. They will then be set to capitalize on their fix and become the next growing economy. Let them fail, reset and help them doo a proper reset.

BUt I do agree with a great deal of sentiment above, these companies can start a rush on banks and can ruin a country's strategies. Can a country afford to let soemone do that?
21:46 July 15, 2011 by r2d2c3po
Schauble has shown himself to be a mental midget and complete moron by not knowing Fitch is French and not part of the US conspiracy. Fitch is simply telling the truth, which of course Schauble and the rest of the government refuse to do.
22:56 July 15, 2011 by ChrisRea
I apologise if this is a stupid question: when did Mr. Schäuble say that Fitch is a US company? In this article it is only the author that uses the term "US-based" (and Fitch Ratings is probably considered a US-based company as it was founded in the US and it is now headquartered in New York and London; in the same time it is owned 60% by the French company Fimalac SA und 40% by the US media conglomerate Hearst Corporation - with this percentages one would call them French-American company).

If the case is that Mr. Schäuble did not say that Fitch is a US company, maybe people should not throw injurious epithets at him.
23:01 July 15, 2011 by MarshaLynn
Hey, all you socialists over there in Europe, I have a good idea! How about you get rid of all your entitlement programs so you won't be so much in debt. Live within your means. That's what we are trying to get our idiot liberals in the govt. to do here, and we do not intend to stop until the job is done. We WILL return to a non-socialist system, though it will take time because the braindead socialists here have been wreaking havoc for 100 years.
23:28 July 15, 2011 by ChrisRea
Wow! So all the US presidents starting with Nixon were liberals? It was only Clinton that managed to slow a bit the increase of the US debt. So basically the Americans were living well off their means since around '69.

But I think the advice is good - Europe should not do what the US have done since the Vietnam War.
01:15 July 16, 2011 by whpmgr
Chris Rea, you hav ean amazing grasp of the unreal.

1. Clinton was the President during a very prosperous time in US History. It had nothing to do with him. It actually started when Reagan cut taxes, did away with useless laws (Some at least) changed teh Tax code soem, and BUsh just kept doing what his predecessor started. Clinton took a hands off approach and the US propsered. He gets a good Rep for doing nothing and being smart enough not to mess with anything. He might be responsible fr 9/11 as he cut intelligence, the military and many things that may have caught Al Quaida and Osama if we had more bodies in the world spying and looking for things. SO was he great for denying that oral sex is sex? Or not having sex? No, he is great because he has a great personality, was good looking and young, and the news never went after him for anything they should have.

2. We are a big country, and until recently, we were feeding the world. Spending money like drunken sailors giving welfare to the poor around the world. Sending medicine (and soem spies) around the world to help people. Much of our debt was built protecting Europe and the world from Communism. You might say teh Lend Lease act, proping up many governments in teh world (good and Bad) building bases, keeping military there and protecting many has been a very expensive endeavor. One that goes highly unrecognized and undervalued.

You are welcome for our unwanted help, the reconstruction, the willingness to push russia so hard they tore down the walls and gave you back East Germany. You are welcome that we have helped finance a great many things there in Europe, and Germany.

\China seems to be willing to do the same, with strings attached also, so be ready for the other shoe to drop. COmpare and in say, 20 years, tell me which was a better deal.
10:25 July 16, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ whpmgr,

Apparently you are delusional with regard of your governmental spending. If you take a look at http://www.usgovernmentspending.com you will find detailed historical data on how the money were spent. It is quite easy to see that the big chunk of money was spent on military, not on "feeding the world". To claim that this was made for the altruistic purpose to protect the world is as naive as saying that Iraq was invaded because they had mass destruction weapons. US simply promoted its own interests.

Actually the sad part is that "own" refers not to its citizens, but its big corporations with operations abroad. Of course the most interests were of the arms industry who sold weapons both to its own government and also to belligerent countries. If US would have promote peace, it would have not be by far the biggest exporter of weapons.
12:39 July 16, 2011 by Englishted

Which country owes the most in the world?

Oh I know the same one who's banks and bad loans started all this crap.

Classic case of pot calling kettle black.

I hope you don't fall ill or on bad times because if everyone was like you then nobody will care.
17:20 July 16, 2011 by greattoucan
Isn't it enough to know that the banks pay these "ratings" agencies to make ratings that the banks like? It's totally corrupt, and if I were Europe, I wouldn't share the first bit of information with them.

What are stress tests, if not some form of ratings system for banks. The European financial community, and by that I mean a much broader segment of society than mere predatory banks, needs to develop it's own guidelines for financial performance and declare independence from foreign "raters."

The U.S. has a Congressman, Eric Cantor, of Virginia, who is holding up the entire debt ceiling question in the Congress so that the U.S. will default. This, because Cantor is invested in a fund which shorts U.S. bonds. So he is betting against the welfare of his own countrymen and constituents, and this shows just how corrupt the whole American financial scene is. Avoid it like the plague!
18:12 July 16, 2011 by lwexcel
@Greattoucan: The stress tests conducted in Europe are performed and overseen by a European authority, not one of the ratings agencies mentioned above.

@ChrisRae: The U.S. is the biggest weapons exporter but Germany is third largest in the world, so it is always hypocritical to me when someone in this country attempts to throw those statistics around, as if your economy has no vested interest in wars around the globe.

@MarshaLynn: Germany's social system and entitlements work just fine for the people here thank you very much. Agreed this country may have its problems but they have less homeless, less violent crimes, and ironically enough, less greenhouse emissions even though they are one of the largest exporters in the world. I am going to jump off topic here to explain to you that the tax rates in the U.S. are absolute BS, because they are far to low. There is absolutely no justification for lowering taxes when an economy has a deficit as large as that in the United States. Now I am fully aware and well versed in the theories of the 'trickle down effect' and the 'Laffer Curve' but the problem with those in the U.S. that did not make it past Econ 101, is that you don't understand that it is only fine to employ these tactics when you don't have bills to pay!!! With a deficit so large the states should be raising taxes for everybody while cutting costs until they get this thing under control. This is actually the best time to do it being that all of the generations (i.e. baby boomers, gens x,y, & z) are all represented as members of the workforce in the country. However instead of considering this people on the right would much rather go and attempt to spread their failed ideas to the rest of the world. Well I can only say .... good luck with that!
22:31 July 16, 2011 by wenddiver
Anybody thinking the US based companies are being unfair, should take your Euros and go buy some Greek, Portugese, Italian, or Spanish bonds. If enough of you do it maybe these Governments will whether the storm, the Euro will hang on as a good idea, French and German Banks will make a bundle, etc, etc. as members of the EU your going to pay for it anyway, by buying bonds that might mature or astax payers in the EU who will pay for it in the bail out????

If you say NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, didn't you just confirm the logic of the US based rating firms???

Also there are a lot of articles on this sight about the need to bring cheap labor rom the Middle East or Africa to Germany so they can be an export giant. Why not farm out some of that work to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece. Those countries buy a lot from Germany from Leopard tanks to Subs, to Mercedes, do you really want to kill your market? A collapse will hit the exporter harder than the overspender who will only have to stop buying, it will not idle his factories.
00:26 July 17, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ lwexcel,

I think we have to clarify some points. I agree with you that Germany is the third major exporter of weapons (even if it is far from the US, which exports almost 4 times more). I also think it is hypocritical from Ms. Merkel to accuse Angola of not respecting human rights and in the same time to try to sell them patrol boats. But I don't see why you think I am hypocritical when I bring up these statistics to the table. Which of my (stated) beliefs were contradicted by my postings? If you live in Germany, its economy is yours as much as it is mine.
09:56 July 17, 2011 by heyheyhey

Here you go again running your mouth about how the US military and US government have been protecting the world, absorbing the cost, and all because of some saintly wish to save and help humanity. Man, where in God's name did you pick up this brainwashed BS??? You, and your military pals are so deluded it is almost laughable. The US has invested in the things you mention because it SERVES THE US interests to do so. The USA is not a great and selfless nation. If you would kindly shut your mouth for awhile and listen to the impressions of others, as written in these pages, you might learn a thing or two about reality. GET OVER IT MAN. KEEP YOUR RAH, RAH, RAH USA CRAP TO YOURSELF.
18:08 July 17, 2011 by derExDeutsche

The promotion of Democracy and Free Trade leave a bad taste in your mouth? Ha. Funny, so in all those wars the US has had to fight for said causes, they fought them against an enemy carrying US made weapons? It seems they are not the only ones producing weapons ... I can understand how you would hope the USA had a few less, it would make it easier to teach them a lesson, wouldn't it? However negative your feelings for the USA, the USA is the only reason Germans are not still screaming 'Heil Hitler' in a stiff limbed march, or sipping mud in the DDR . Ok, so the USA fought those wars for self serving interests. I am glad they did. This way, I can sign into the loco.de anytime I wish and hear your idiotic ramblings.
23:08 July 17, 2011 by wenddiver
@heyheyhey- Poor dear, so oppressed by the Ammis, maybe you would have had a better life if they had not agreed to send the majority of their troops to Europe instead of the Pacific. Then your whole country could have been "liberated" by the same Army of Russian rapists whole "liberated" Berlin and then put up the Wall and started shooting Germans who crossed it. You might want to ask your Mothers and Sisters how they would have felt about that. Why don't you ask the people of the former East Germany what it was like being a prisioner in their own country.

The truth of the matter is the US troops were told they were in Germany to protect German Freedom and Democracy, there was never any doubt about that to the men behind the trigger or flying the Food in the Berlin Airlift. Great Britain, Canada and yes the US spent a great deal of money keeping Soviet style slavery out of Germany a task that belonged to the German Armed Forces.

If you think this was unimportant I suggest you google "Rape of Berlin" or "Killing Fields of Cambodia" on Wikeopedia to see what you missed.
23:57 July 17, 2011 by heyheyhey
@wenddiver......I have read the items you list. I do not, however, see the US military as a great protector against the "evil army of rapists". The US military has done its own fair share of raping, including the women who currently serve along side you now. In case you haven't heard, there was a very lengthy radio program recently regarding all the women who have been raped by their fellow soldiers during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Don't try to present yourselves as saviors when you are no different than the vermin you wish to frighten others with. Why is it that you guys always use the issue of saving women and kids from rape when you try to justify your existence? Do you really believe that we non military people are unaware of the fact that you guys are all the same, no matter what country you come from? geez.........I didn't just fall off the turnip wagon.
00:53 July 19, 2011 by whpmgr
heyheyhey: I love yor double posts. Did you know that there are about 2.3 Mil americans serving the military in uniform (about 1.1 as guard and reserve). About 213,000 people in the US are sexually abused, including rape. That is about 70.3 rapes per 100,000 that are forceably raped (whatever that means)-fuzzy math.

That means that in the US Military, statistically there should be, since it is made up of Americans, about 1617 rapes per year. I am searching for the data, but I truly doubt that there are that many rapes per year committed by American GI's. Now you have some homework. Prove me wrong. I bet that the average Soldier, especially if they are German, American or British, will be better citizens than your average Civilian from the same populaces. They will do fewer crimes, lie less, be better dressed, be better mannered, they will be better trained and
11:37 July 19, 2011 by annaccar
What a ridiculous waste of tax payers¦#39; money. Interested in seeing the entire history on the bailout for this horrendous insurance company?


So much of this please.
00:22 July 21, 2011 by whpmgr
heyheyhey: I guess you shut up. In any case, your very worn and tired anti-Ami BS was entertaining. I wish I could have selectively not helped your family by keeping the Russians, RAF or anyother terrorist org away from them, so they could have been harder hit by the ravages of war and hard tiems. If I could have found a way to make sure that anyone related to yo had to suffer as much as those on the other side of the wall, or made sure that those family in berlin during the airlift weren't helped, perhaps, it would be plain to me why you hated the US and its politics so much. The fact is, that Ron Reagan and John F Kennedy felt a certain kinmanship with your country. ANd while it was in our interests to defeat Russia (hey they are coming back without any opposition to face them) but your family -if they are German, benefitted from our policies. We helped you directly, more than we did the UK (After the war that is). Germany singlehandedly benefitted from teh security given by the 3 real powers ( canadian, Brit and US) I wont say French as they actually did many things to stunt and damage Germany.

I don't understand how you can be the way you are, but in reality, you have the right to be that way. We helped you get it back. In fact, when you buy that next dinner, and have a roll of good toilet paper, and can whine to me about my RAH RAH RAH crap, I will kindly refer you to the Allies who helped you have the right. We do not pretend to be heros. I certainly do not. But, I do portend (look that one up friend) that without strong allies, with a military might unparalleled in history, your chances of keeping these freedoms lessens everyday the Chinese and Russians get stronger.

We may not be around to help out. Taxes and socialism are killing the only things protecting yoru sorry butt, but that is ok. When you no longer have the help, and yo are beaten back, you'll finally realize, we may have benefitted from our policies, but you, my not so friendly friend, did too. Our histories and futures are very closely linked, adn you cannot deny that.
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