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….
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…