In the parlance of credit rating agencies, it is all about "notches." These pesky merits and demerits determine how much a company must pay for its debt. Even though the lords of credit ratings have been humiliated, their scorecard is still the official one.

It is remarkable that after years of Washington's wrangling about "too big to fail," it all comes down to notches. The political class is falling all over itself claiming that its version of financial reform legislation will eliminate the TBTF problem.

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