A view from outside the exceptional bubble

On Wednesday October 2nd, the German business daily Handelsblatt ran this cover with the caption "The Blocked World Power".

On Wednesday October 2nd, the German business daily Handelsblatt ran this cover with the caption “The Blocked World Power”.

Looking at news outlets from around the world really gives you a perspective on what people think about the US government shutdown.  It doesn’t take much reading to see that we’re on our way from being the world’s economic superpower to the world’s laughing-stock.

Giving its reaction Spiegel Online said: “A superpower has paralyzed itself.” But it added that politicians were working in Washington to solve the crisis and said there was still hope for an agreement.

The Welt newspaper warned of “fatal consequences” stating the “unthinkable has happened.” The shutdown puts the world economy in danger, it added. “The fear is real that the tender US recovery will be damaged,” it said.

The newspaper described the US president as being between a “rock and a hard place”. “Either he breaks the law and no longer pays teachers, firefighters and FBI agents, or he ignores the debt ceiling, which would also be illegal,” it said.

For the Zeit newspaper, the blame lay with a “handful of radicals” who did not want to compromise and would rather hold a country hostage to their ideology.

“Not only are millions of government workers affected but all Americans, as the inability to pay, if it lasts for weeks, will have fatal affects on the economy,” it said.

“A small group of uncompromising Republican ideologues in the House of Representatives are principally responsive for this disaster,” it said. “They are not only taking their own party to the brink, but the whole country. Unfortunately the leadership of this party has neither had the courage nor the backbone to put them in their place.”

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, US budget policy was often “extremely dubious”. “For years the financial year has begun on October 1st without an orderly budget adopted by Congress and signed off by the President,” it said.

The newspaper added that Obama’s health reforms – hated by the Republicans – rather than the budget, was the real battleground currently being fought over.  

The French newspaper Le Monde  posted an editorial whose name translates to “Jefferson, awake, they have become insane!”.  The BBC reported “That leaders of one of the most powerful nations on earth willingly provoked a crisis that suspends public services and decreases economic growth is astonishing to many.”  I could go on, but it’s safe to say that others are looking at us in a worldwide WTF??? type of way.

We have nobody but ourselves to blame for this.  We held the elections that put these people in office.  We’ll be the ones voting to determine whether they stay in office.  Looking at the fact that, historically, elected members of Congress have a re-election rate that hovers near 85%, I think it’s safe to say that this won’t be the last time our elected officials embarrass us.

It will be interesting to see how people in the world respond to us after this is said and done.  We’ll likely hear whining from both sides about who was at fault.  Nobody in DC seems to be addressing the fact that we’re undercutting our having the world’s reserve currency.  If they think our debt issues or the PPACA are bad, just imagine our issues would multiply if we were no longer the world’s reserve currency.

You can’t talk about being the example for democracy when you can’t even fund basic government operations.  Even where countries are in turmoil, they still fund and keep the government open.  I think many Americans would be offended if we had United Nations observers here to watch our next election, but maybe we need a slap to the face like that.  Instead of being so high on our hubris, we may need to come down a notch or two so that we can see what we have and learn to appreciate it instead of allowing others to destroy it.

It’s bad when our allies have issued travel warnings to the US, but Germany and the UK both issued such warnings this week as a response to the shutdown.

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2 thoughts on “A view from outside the exceptional bubble

  1. Interesting that the Le Monde headline was “Jefferson awake…..”. In my opinion, Jefferson’s vision was well on its way to being dead by the 1840’s. Hamilton’s vision won. A great many of the things that the “anti-Federalists” warned about during the ratification process have come true.

    I see the Dems and Repubs as just two different wings of the old Whig Party. Probably won’t be anybody agree with me but that’s how I see it. 😉

    • 😆 You’re right in that we basically have Repubs and Repubs Light or Dems and Hard Dems depending on the view. I don’t think the founders would recognize this country if they were able to peek in today based on how far it’s changed.

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