What makes me mad, and what makes me even madder…

And after THIS, you were supposed to go to Papua New Guinea…

NPR One has been driving me nuts.

I listen to it (and Pandora, and podcasts) whenever I go out to walk, and I always start with their most recent hourly National Newscast. And every time I’ve called it up this week, it has started with a bunch of nothing about these alleged debt limit talks. Fortunately, it’s easy to wait for other news, because there’s never anything to report, so it only lasts a few seconds.

But it makes me mad anyway, as I mutter, “Get back to me when it’s resolved, and when you do so, sum it up in a sentence, and move on to other things.” Because this goes under the heading of Doing Your Job, especially if you’re in the legislative branch, but — since the legislative has over the years surrendered so much to the executive — it’s now also the president’s job.

And what do we get? Day-after-day drama and trauma as both Team A and Team B predict disaster (and defaulting would indeed be disastrous), and preposition themselves to be able to pin it all on the other side when it happens.

If you’re going to arrest our attention with meetings and debates, make them about something that isn’t routine and is actually difficult — something like, say, countering China’s multifront, full-court press to make sure it dominates the world in this century.

Which brings me to the thing that made me even madder:

The White House is defending its decision to cancel President Biden’s plans to visit the tiny Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea and key ally Australia — stops that were aimed at demonstrating U.S. leadership in countering China….

Papua New Guinea had declared a national holiday in honor of Biden’s visit — which would have been the first ever visit from a sitting U.S. president. China’s President Xi Jinping has been there, and China has invested a lot of money in projects for island nations….

Just to give my isolationist American friends a general idea where to find Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea was so proud that this important meeting was happening on its turf that it declared a national holiday! The fact of the meeting itself, regardless of how the talks actually came out, went a long way — at least in that country — toward undoing the diplomatic ground lost when this country abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership. And when I say the country abandoned it, I mean everybody including Hillary Clinton, who had been a big part of bringing things as far as they got.

It seems she had decided that that global affairs genius Donald Trump was right. She couldn’t be troubled any longer to defend doing the right thing in the face of one of America’s periodic isolationist tsunamis. (I wonder: Since she lost anyway, does she ever lie awake at night wishing she’d done the right thing?)

And why would the president do such a thing? Well, you see the ellipses in the middle of the excerpt below? Here’s the part I left out, the second and third grafs:

Biden is still traveling to Japan to talk to G-7 leaders about the war in Ukraine and strengthening the global economy. But he’s cutting short the rest of the trip because he said needs to get back to Washington to finish talks with congressional leaders on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The United States could run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 1. Defaulting on its debts would throw the economy into recession, and Biden has said his top priority was to make sure that doesn’t happen….

Yeah. Because seeing that routine business gets done back in Washington is his “top priority,” which beats out addressing what is perhaps the nation’s top long-term worldwide concern.

Again, would it be disastrous if our political “leaders” did something so insanely irresponsible as letting the United States default? Hell, yes. And here’s what matters about it to me: It’s one thing to childishly foul our own nest, but default would wreak destruction all over the world.

So what should the parties in this fiscal farce do? Well, I didn’t come here today to map out a detailed plan, but here are a couple of simple tips.

Go ahead and raise the limit.

Then immediately schedule REAL talks, instead of all this posing brinksmanship, on reducing deficits.

And when you do this second thing, I would add this rule: If you come into the room unwilling to consider BOTH significant spending cuts AND significant revenue increase, you should be thrown out, and replaced with serious grownups. Because making the claim that anything can be accomplished by only doing the things palatable to your team is not only grossly stupid, but frighteningly insane…

9 thoughts on “What makes me mad, and what makes me even madder…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Isn’t this always the way?

    Earlier when I was writing this, I went and checked the latest NPR National Newscast, and again it led with the debt ceiling garbage.

    Just now, looking at this again, I decided to give you a link to it. And of course, for the first time this week, I heard them lead with something else. Something important.

    Just so you know I’m not lying here, this is what I heard earlier today

    1. Bill

      Gentlemen, place your debts
      Payment in full by future you
      I think we can all agree
      The ending is off to a great start
      The present is soon replaced
      In small increments attention fades
      One or another way
      The house collects its mark
      How do we keep making all the same mistakes?
      We’d rather have the misery than growing pains
      I chose a mystery
      Went there alone, intentionally
      I had to forgive myself

      For grieving imaginary loss
      You’ll pay with the life not lived
      You pay with each thought of what could have been
      But nothing adds to the cost
      Like missing the ride you’re on

  2. bud

    Biden did the right thing by cutting his trip short. I just don’t buy your hysteria about China. Your neocon bias is showing and it’s not constructive.

    As for the debt limit talks. Now that’s important. Very important! As for your suggested solutions. Of course that’s what we should do! Where have you been, that IS the Democrats position. So you wrote all these words and completely failed to identify the actual villain in this saga, the House Republicans. The Democrats committed an unforced by not raising the debt ceiling while they controlled all of congress. But let’s be clear they are acting in good faith now.

  3. Ken

    As Jame Fallows notes, this is not a both-sides matter:

    ”It is comfortable for journalists, especially the more mainstream the organization, the more comfortable it is to be in a central position, to say, one side says this, the other side says that, the so — the famous both-sides-ism.
    But there are certain things going on … that can’t be fairly described as an other side standoff.
    I would put the current threat to have the U.S. default on its sovereign debt be in that category. And the more that is portrayed as a partisan gridlock, as where each side — one side says this, the other side says that, the less clearly it is presented as a threat to the financial integrity of the United States.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, I’ve made the same critical observation many times myself. In fact, that’s a big reason why I made the switch from news to editorial in 1994. Bowing to the false god Objectivity is dishonest. And I wanted to square with people.

      Of course, a lot of people think being honest in this case means parroting Democratic Party talking points. Which you’re not going to see me do, either, because that’s also dishonest.

      What we have here is a case in which the Republican Party has gone stark, raving mad in recent years, which means I’m inclined to ignore anything they say, even when they’re raising an issue I, too, am concerned about — the alarmingly rising federal debt.

      I tend to dismiss the concerns about government spending when it’s expressed by people who don’t believe in government. Of course, that gets kind of awkward when those people control the part of government where spending bills originate, and where they also go to die….

      What makes that even more infuriating is that these people are generating an unnecessary global financial crisis to try to force a president who DOES believe in good government to go along with things he knows are wrong.

      And because of that, I want to be clear about one thing: When I criticize my man Joe for canceling the summit trip to attend to this nonsense, I’m not blaming him for the situation. He has a realistic problem on his hands. Because there IS a cost to being successfully blamed by the Republicans for failing to stay imprisoned in Washington, and it costs them NOTHING, because their constituents don’t give a damn about people in some country they never heard of.

      What hobbles Joe even more is that HIS constituents don’t care about those people — or the likely greater diplomatic costs of blowing them off — either. (And if you doubt me on that, just look at Bud’s comment.) Which is why Hillary did something she knew better than to do in 2016, and abandoned the TPP.

      All of which, of course, is rooted in the classic American sickness, isolationism. Talk about something that REALLY makes me mad…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        If you like James Fallows, have you read his book Breaking the News, from back in the 90s? The things he was worrying about then contributed a great deal to the madness in our politics today…

Comments are closed.