NEW YORK, N.Y. ( – Less than two years after downgrading the credit rating of the United States – a historical first — Standard & Poor’s analyst Gary Gardener cannot believe he may get the chance to do it again.

Although Gardener (left) gets the credit, damaging the full faith and credit of the United States is a team effort.

“Oh my God I am so psyched,” says the clean cut, angular 38-year-old. “In 2011, when we knocked the U.S. from AAA to AA+, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this the high point of my career.’ And now I get to downgrade the world’s largest economy, again? What are the odds, right? What are the odds!”

“Oh shut up Gary,” snaps a colleague passing by his cubicle.

“Jealous much?” Gardener shouts in reply.

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deadline of Dec. 31, Gardener’s finger is poised on the proverbial button, but the veteran of budget battles and government maneuvering insists he knows better than to get overconfident.

“We’ve been close to downgrading the U.S. since 2011, but the economy always perks up just enough to avoid it,” he laments. “But this fiscal cliff is different. It means massive tax hikes and spending cuts that will devastate the economy, send us back into recession, and cast major doubts on the future of this country.

“So here’s hoping,” he adds.

Gardner’s colleagues admit they are jealous, but concede the right man is on the job.

“Gary is kind of a legend around here,” says global credit supervisor Randy Pervis. “You don’t mess with Gary. He’d downgrade his mother.”

“He actually did that,” adds analyst Gail Shrimby. “When his mom collapsed five years ago, Gary was the first on the scene. He pronounced her dead before the EMTs even got to work.”

Technically, U.S. ratings are determined by a team at S&P, but Sovereign Credit Director Melissa Hutchins says only one person gets to officially make the call.

“Gary is the guy, although as Gary’s boss, I’m the one who gives him the OK to downgrade, so really it’s me,” she explains. “I’m just saying.”

So why allow Gardener to get the accolades?

“First off, he’s a professional,” Hutchins says. “Any idiot can downgrade Greece to junk bond status, but to impugn the full faith and credit of the United States, I need my top person. Plus, I’m (Treasury Secretary) Tim Geithner’s wife’s cousin. Thanksgiving dinner is awkward enough as it is.”

Inheriting that largesse, Gardener says this time around he’ll allow Walter Bucchus, a young intern, to actually push the button that makes the change in the S&P system. It’s a bonus that openly irritates some of Bucchus’ more senior colleagues.
“I can’t believe goofy little Walter here gets to push the button,” says analyst Peter White, leaning over Bucchus’ cubicle. “I mean, he’s a total nerd. Aren’t you Walt? You suck, Walter.’”

“Oh yeah?” Bucchus replies. “I suck… your mother!”
“See?” White scoffs. “Total nerd.”
As for Gardener, he says the work he does now is important, not just for himself, but for future generations.
“I don’t honestly expect a third downgrade in my lifetime,” he says. “But my hope is that someday my children’s children will get to downgrade the U.S. to junk status.”

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