usSome of the largest U.S. pension funds and investment firms have urged President Barack Obama and Congress to resolve the deficit impasse and avoid inflicting "pain and hardship" on the nation. In an open letter to Obama and lawmakers dated July 25, top officials from ten pension funds and plan sponsors urged an increase in the debt ceiling, but more so of the need to reduce the massive federal budget deficit and avoid a potential downgrade of the U.S. by credit agencies. "The idea of America losing its AAA rating was once unthinkable, but now highly likely if our leaders fail to act," the letters said. "The consequences of such a downgrade are very real and very serious."