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Late Night: Jon Stewart blasts S&P for downgrading U.S. debt

August 9, 2011 |  9:42 am

As Jon Stewart noted on "The Daily Show" Monday night, the decision by Standard & Poor's to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, which contributed to Monday's 634-point stock market tailspin, is a situation rich with irony.

After joking that a ratings agency whose name "translates to 'average' and 'below average' " shouldn't be trusted, Stewart pointed out S&P's spotty track record when it comes to evaluating debt: Prior to 2008's financial meltdown, the agency gave its seal of approval to many mortgage-backed securities that later proved toxic.

"If it was the same ratings company so crucially responsible for the financial predicament we find ourselves in now, that'd be a real slap in the face," he said. "Maybe Standard & Poor's are just incredibly tough graders. Are there other countries that still have AAA ratings?"

Alas, there are many of them, from Australia and the Netherlands to the teensy-weensy Isle of Man (not to be confused with "Man Island," as Stewart learned).

In making its decision, S&P cited the political intransigence of both parties, something that Stewart also sees as a problem. "You're suggesting our political system is reckless, populated by ideological children? Well, you don't watch the Sunday morning news shows," he said, cutting to a montage of shrill, bickering politicians from this past Sunday -- less than 48 hours after the downgrade.

Both sides may be pointing fingers, but as Stewart noted, only one party seems content with the debt ceiling deal that played a crucial part in the downgrade. He played a clip from a recent interview in which Republican House Speaker John Boehner said of the deal: "I got 98% of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy."

"Then you are the world's most misguided tangerine," Stewart quipped. "The Speaker of the House saying he pretty much got everything he wanted in a deal that seemed to destroy our financial standing in the world seems like a bit of a slap in the face."


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-- Meredith Blake