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Standard and Poor's headquarters seen in Manhattan in New York City. - 

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: It could take a long time to get that AAA rating back, and some analysts say it could never be restored.

Here's Marketplace's Jeff Horwich.


JEFF HORWICH: A AAA rating, once lost, is not gone forever -- but it's gone for a while. Treasuries analyst Gennadiy Goldberg of 4Cast says it's a multi-step process. Before returning to AAA, the U.S. first has to remove itself from a so-called "negative outlook." That's S&P's way of saying it expects things will be bad for a while.

GENNADIY GOLDBERG: It would take at least maybe five or six years for us to get back to AAA -- in the absence of just extraordinary Congressional agreement, which I highly doubt.

Goldberg says S&P's concerns are overwhelmingly political. S&P's statement on the downgrade suggests a return to AAA would take a wholesale upending of the current political climate.

Goldberg: A large part of the statement was there was no agreement -- nobody was willing to give and take. There were certain unnamed parties, that blocked anything that came their way.

S&P says both sides need to slay their sacred cows. For Democrats, that's fixing Medicare and Social Security. For Republicans, raising taxes.

I'm Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich