Ironically, whose opinion is rattling stock markets worldwide? It’s the rating agencies that were harshly criticized for enabling the catastrophic “bubble” of near-worthless Wall Street assets just a few years ago.

The ratings agencies are supposed to be watchdogs of creditworthiness. During the pre-2008 boom on the Street, the agencies seemed to be unable to bark about the potential for a fall.

The economy in the United States and around the globe suffered then.

The heavy costs of the financial recession’s unemployment and business decline are the leading reason today’s U.S. budget — and those of other nations around the world — are in the trouble that they are in.

However, as the Wall Street Journal commented, the downgrade of the U.S. bond rating by one of the agencies should not prompt “shooting the messenger.” The underlying problems with the U.S. government imbalances continue.

Another critic of the rating agencies, The Washington Post, also summarized the situation brought into prominence by the S&P downgrade. “For all of its faults, S&P was right about its assessment of the problems that underlie the U.S. economy,” the Post said. “Government expenditures are too high; revenue remains untenably low; and the rancorous political environment that brought the country to the brink of default last week casts doubt on the willingness of its leaders to correct the imbalance.”

The latter point ought to focus the attention of Washington leaders on working together in a crisis.