The fact that the rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ a few hours after the Treasury discovered a two trillion (!) dollar error in their calculations suggests that their "economic analysis" was just window dressing to a publicity stunt.
There is something fundamentally wrong in the rating agencies' approach: they unilaterally redefined their role from doing their job -- assessing the ability of sovereign issuers to service their debt -- to rating countries.
As it is, we all have a decent chance of muddling through. Not very satisfying considering our expectations for change we could believe in. But in light of how truly rotten underlying conditions turned out to be, it could easily and always get worse.
If ratings agencies are going to make judgments on public health care systems, then they should do it right. An honest analysis of fiscal sustainability would point toward a larger, not smaller, role for publicly provided health coverage.
S&P's opinion on debt ratings should have almost no credibility. S&P is the same private profit-making corporation that was paid tens of millions of dollars by Wall Street banks to rate its toxic subprime mortgages and derivatives, giving them phony AAA ratings.