The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's recently downgraded the ratings of several European nations - for much the same reason it earlier downgraded the United States' credit rating for the first time in our history: runaway spending and debt.
Portugal's rating fell to so-called "junk status" - scarcely an enviable position. France lost its top-notch rating. Austria, Malta, Slovenia and Slovakia all saw their ratings drop one level. And Italy's, Spain's and Cyprus' ratings declined by a painful two notches each.
These drops make it more costly for the countries to borrow money.
As in the United States, there are hopes in Europe for economic growth that could expand the tax base. But in our country in particular, low consumer demand in the weak economy, the imposition of new regulations, and persistent threats of higher taxes are making it even riskier than usual for companies to expand operations. They simply have no certainty about where the economy is going, and as a result, they are not making many large investments.
What the credit downgrades here and abroad point to is the need to reduce government spending and borrowing, as well as other government intrusions in the market. Nothing from the past few years of breakneck federal spending in the United States shows that such reckless fiscal policy is beneficial. It's time to cut, not expand, the reach of government.