As I sit at my desk on Sunday, the President is heading home from the G7 conference in Japan, as negotiations on raising the debt limit, and therefore avoiding an economic catastrophe, are deadlocked. By the time this is published on Wednesday, we may have dodged a bullet. But as the President sat with world leaders this past weekend, what does it look like to them? What do they think of us as the clowns keep pouring out of a VW Beetle in Washington?
I read an interesting piece by Susan Glasser that contained this line...
"For the rest of the world, it was merely a sign of the capital’s extreme dysfunction, and a reminder that America’s messed-up politics constitutes a geopolitical crisis as well as a domestic one."
And because of this circus, the President had to cancel two planned stops in Australia and New Guinea to the embarrassment of the leaders there who had planned parliamentary sessions and festivities for the visit. In the case of New Guinea, it would have been the first time a US President visited an island that is now considered strategic in our Pacific rivalry with China. The Sydney Morning Herald carried this headline...
“A disappointment, a mess, and a gift to Beijing.”
And this happened at a time when our standing in the world was rising.
It is caused by a couple of things. But first and foremost, we don't elect the smartest people. In fact, we often elect simply stupid people. And no one's hands are clean. In some cases, yes, they just arent very bright. But in others, they don't have the common sense to see beyond their own self-interest. I offer as exhibit A the so-called "Squad" and the so-called "Freedom Caucus."
These are folks who can't find their way through a forest of parochial and partisan issues to arrive at the big picture. In some cases, they are educated but so narrowly focused they can't effectively govern. And in some cases they are merely dumb. In all cases they have only a couple of goals. They want to defeat, or at lease humiliate the other party, and get on TV. And as I mentioned last week, they see compromise as political kryptonite.
Add to this the frenzied desire to be re-elected. To do that, they must ignore the national interest and appeal to the voting base back home, who are now so polarized, they would vote for a small dinner salad if it had an R or a D by it's name. And the issues have become so zany that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) actually wants to hold hearings on Budweiser's calamitous promotion of a trans Tik-Tok character on a single promotional beer can. Think about that for a moment, as his fellow Keystone Kops take us over the cliff of default. Kevin McCarthy can't really negotiate because the madcap buffoons in the "Freedom Caucus" hold the fate of his tenuous speakership in their hands.
And the President can't compromise on something he voted for as a Senator, work requirements for those on welfare who don't have dependent children, because AOC and all the other acronyms would have his head for "selling out the poor." This at a time when employers are begging for applicants.
The tail is wagging the dog and that's why we have gotten these absurd hearings on "weaponization" of government or whether the FBI, never ever led by a Democrat, is a hotbed of lefties. I'm reminded of a Murrow quote...
That's why he's the man. So, we all blithely hurtle toward the abyss, somehow certain that this group of escapees from Bedlam will avert disaster. This as the presumptive leader in the race for his party's nomination for President was asked about default, and said, in front of God and everyone, “Well, you might as well do it now, because you’ll do it later. Because we have to save this country. Our country is dying. ”
To be clear, it is not, and the cavalier endorsement of economic Armageddon should be disqualifying, but of course, it isn't. Democrats have played this game as well, yes even during President Trump's term, but never carried it this far. But yes, both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have voted against raising the ceiling, so no one has the moral high ground here. Part of the problem may be that the public doesn't understand the whole process. The Brookings Institution points this out...
"A recent CBS News poll informed voters that “the debt ceiling is the legal limit the federal government can borrow to pay its current debts” and then asked whether Congress should raise the ceiling. Forty-six percent said that Congress should do so; more (54%) said that it should not. But when informed failing to raise the ceiling could result in the U.S. defaulting on its current debt, only 30% continued to say that the ceiling should not be increased."
So even when TOLD that default would make us a deadbeat nation, almost a third still said, go ahead and default. And even if they find an 11th hour solution, we aren't completely out of the woods. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center...
Recent debt limit brinkmanship has imposed significant costs on the federal government, even though in each instance, the limit has been raised before missing or delaying federal payments. Specifically, the financial market implications of nearing the debt limit have caused increased borrowing costs for the Treasury, measuring in the hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the 2013 delay in raising the debt limit increased government interest costs by tens of millions of dollars in just one year. These costs are ultimately borne by U.S. taxpayers. Another consequence was evident in the aftermath of the 2011 debt limit impasse, when even though no payments were ultimately missed, Standard & Poor’s rating agency downgraded the credit rating of the United States. Additionally, when Treasury is forced to use extraordinary measures to avoid default, such activities and projections consume the time of federal workers at the Treasury Department, which is not an effective use of federal resources.
So, there are real-world consequences for this game of fiscal chicken, and we will all pay the price. But my concern is that it simply won't matter to either side if they perceive that they "won." And, more importantly, if the other side gets the blame and therefore would be likely to lose the next election. Because like a businessman who thinks only of the next quarter's profits, they only think about the next campaign.
This is where party of Lincoln and the party of Jefferson are today. That whirring sound you hear is both men spinning.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.