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Meanwhile, in America…

10 April 2011

5:03 PM

10 April 2011

5:03 PM

We really oughtn’t let the weekend pass without some mention of political events across the Atlantic. As you’ve probably heard, a US government shutdown was avoided on Friday evening, and all
thanks to a budget compromise which saw Barack Obama slash a cool $38 billion from his spending plans. Although the debate over who has credited or discredited themselves is still ongoing, it’s striking that the Republicans — urged on by the Tea Party corps
— achieved around two-thirds of the cuts that they demanded.


Yet disaster, or at least the prospect of it, has still not been averted. The Tea Party has already claimed several fiscal scalps along the way — and the next target for their administrations
is the impending debate over America’s debt ceiling. With the federal debt level poised to reach its legal limit of $14.25 trillion in the next couple of months, President Obama will have to court
Republican support in order to raise it and avoid what could amount to default. Normally, there might be a little sabre-rattling by the party of opposition, before they finally agree to acquiesce.
But judging by the tone of the New York Times, there are real fears that acquiescence may not come this time
around.

It all highlights just how important the politics of debt is in America. While our politicians have tended to push the national debt into the background, instead focusing on the deficit, their
Washington counterparts drag it right out, screaming, into the open. It’s a difference of emphasis that is clear in everything from Paul Ryan’s "Path to Prosperity" video (see above) to
the National Debt Clock that ticks along above Sixth Avenue in New York. And that’s before we get onto the Congressional battles that
will smoulder over the next few weeks.

Here, in London, there’s a Rally Against Debt being held on 14 May. In this one specific regard, I expect its organisers are hoping to Americanise our
politics.


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