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All in the numbers

President Obama felt it necessary to remind the world that the United States is still a nation with a triple A rating. Lucky he wasn't thinking in terms of baseball, because that would imply a notch below major league.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, was fast out of the box reassuring the Chinese that the U.S. was still a safe bet for investing. The fact that he had to say this at all speaks for itself.

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The United States, once unassailable in the ratings league, has lately experienced what so many Americans have been taking on the chin for years - a downgrade in its credit rating.

Nations are credit rated by three companies. Ordinary citizens are credit rated by three other companies, whose record on getting their sums correct is, to say the least, sketchy.

That the U.S. president feels the need to argue with a credit report that knocked the gloss off America's former top tier rating will draw wry and weary smiles from many citizens who have had their financial plans and ambitions thwarted by companies that they never have any direct dealing with.

Rather than any such eye-to-eye or ear-to-ear interaction, the fitness of an individual to secure or expand credit, take out a loan, or nail down a mortgage, is decided invisibly, distantly, anonymously.

President Obama was arguing that there is more to America than a blunt assessment based on number crunching. And of course he would be right. There's a lot more to America, and a lot more to all of us that make up America.

But the president has an advantage over the ordinary citizen, that being his bully pulpit.

Down in the trenches, out on the streets, lives that might go one way end up going the other because of the lack of any pulpit in the face of cold numerical assessments of men and women that, more often than not, tell only part of the whole story.

Numbers decide many aspects of our social, economic and political lives, always have. But it's a relatively new phenomenon to have entire nations judged in terms of credit worthiness based on numbers.

Perhaps the president will move over a bit on his bully pulpit and allow the credited rated to death citizenry to climb on board.