Washington’s dysfunctional politics

Foreign reaction to the debt ceiling crisis takes the Tea Partiers to task.

Hard-line conservatives have taken over Washington, said Christian Wernicke in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung. The ascendancy of the Tea Party, and its willingness to destroy the economy if it doesn’t get its way, has created a new power dynamic: “America’s right wing dictates, and the nation must obey.” The Tea Partiers live in an alternate reality. Most of their representatives in Congress “come from rural, white backgrounds,” and many of their constituents see President Obama as “a closet Muslim whose occupancy of the White House is illegal because he has a forged birth certificate.” Their radical, anti-government agenda will have disastrous consequences for America. It will become a nation where the wealthy continue to receive subsidies for their corporate jets and their oil companies while poor wage earners are robbed of the social programs and health-care coverage they need to make ends meet.

This is a “depressing moment for all who admire the United States,” said Jean-Sébastien Stehli in the Paris Le Figaro. We had such high hopes that Obama would usher in a new era of enlightenment after the Bush years. Instead, the president has caved in to the “absurd and toxic positions of the Republicans.” There won’t be a single cent of tax increases, but there will be spending cuts that slow the economy even further and hurt only the poor. The president has showed he can be blackmailed—and that is not only bad for domestic policy but also disastrous for his international reputation.

“At the root of all this is sheer hubris,” said Dominic Sandbrook in the London Daily Mail. The U.S. economy has been unsustainable since the era of Ronald Reagan, who won power by promising to cut taxes while raising defense spending—a recipe that ensured he’d have to borrow billions. By the time Reagan left office, the U.S. had gone “from being the world’s biggest creditor to the world’s biggest debtor,” and it’s only gotten worse since then. Yet greedy Americans refuse to accept that they must both curb their spending and raise their taxes. “Instead of working hard and consuming less, they have allowed themselves to grow fat and lazy.” They will surely wake up once China, which holds most U.S. debt, exerts its “stranglehold over their economy.” By then, of course, it will be too late.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

In the meantime, the Americans managed to come up with a fake solution to their fake crisis, said Margaret Wente in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Raising the debt ceiling should have been uncontroversial—of course the nation must pay its debts. It became a crisis only when the Tea Party insisted that a deficit-reduction plan be implemented at the same time, causing all sides to threaten “disaster, depression, and Armageddon.” In the end, they resolved things with “a minimalist deal that kicks the can down the road” and does nothing to address the time bomb of entitlements that could still bankrupt the nation in the next 50 years. “Which raises the question: If they’re so deadlocked over a phony crisis, how can they possibly address the real ones?”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.