“They’d say, ‘Here’s what it’s going to cost,’” he says. “I’d say, ‘That’s outrageous.’ They’d repeat, ‘This is what it’s going to cost.’ Finally, I’d say, ‘OK.’ With no ratings, you can’t sell your debt.”

Bloomberg also looks at the options for radical change. Some on Wall Street want to empower individuals to do credit ratings, which would benefit Wall Street two ways: It no doubt make it much easier to find raters favorable to the Street, and the increased competition would lower the fees they have to pay raters.

Or, the government could do what’s essentially a regulatory function:

Eric Dinallo, New York’s top insurance regulator, proposes a government takeover of the rating business.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying Moody’s or someone is going to just become a government agency,” he says. “We’ve hung the entire global economy on ratings.”

Unfortunately the very long piece is another example of a not-great Bloomberg edit, but If you can make it through the whole piece, it’s well worth your time.

Applaud Bloomberg for putting the resources into this story and for pushing it aggressively.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.