Standard and Poor’s gave plenty of reasons for its downgrade of Japan’s credit rating yesterday such as increasing annual deficits and soaring national debt, an aging population, shrinking workforce, and a government in gridlock. With their national debt approaching $11 trillion and a gross domestic product of just under $5.5 trillion, Japan’s ratio of debt to GDP is now 200 percent, the highest of any industrialized nation in the world. And it’s going higher. As S&P noted in its announcement:

After nearly two years of investigation, reviewing millions of documents and conducting hundreds of interviews, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) released its report today, pinning the blame for the Great Recession largely on Wall Street and alleged deregulation of the financial markets in the 1990s.

One of the most-watched and highly regarded indices giving direction to the housing market is the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index published every month. Its latest report, announced on Tuesday, provides the clearest evidence so far that housing prices are continuing to fall and in fact may represent a significant double-dip in the housing market into 2011.

The dire economic straits of the nation have prompted progressives to call for increased taxes, a measure they believe can help offset the deficits at the state and national level. However, when one examines the fiscally troubled states of California and New Jersey, it becomes evident that higher taxes would do little to assuage the problem.

The conflicting news reports on the housing market can give the casual observer a headache: “December Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Jump to 7-Month High,” shouts Bloomberg. “Housing Starts Decline, [but] Building Permits Rise,” exults the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Google news drearily reports that "2010 Ends as 2nd Worst Year for Home Builders," while CNNMoney.com warns that “Shadow Inventory Threatens Housing Recovery.”