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Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

Take Decisive Action on Debt Ceiling! Just Do it, Barack!


"With the advent of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives, the Republicans are taking the route of imposing a total blockade. Their goals are clearly defined: Show strength and take Obama down. … Politically, President Obama would be well-advised to put an end to this humiliating game and to present Congress with a 'fait accompli.'"


By Matthias Ruch


Translated By Stephanie Martin


July 28, 2011


Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Early Sunday evening, Reid confirmed that he had signed off on a debt ceiling deal. If his and the Republican caucus' approve, the crisis could be over by Monday afternoon.


FINANCIAL TIMES VIDEO: What a downgrade means for Wall Street, July 27, 00:03:45RealVideo

Far from home, even the usually proud secretary of state resorted to apologizing for situation in her country: Before the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Hillary Clinton explained that partisan debate was a fact of political life in Washington. Sometimes this debate was “messy,” but in the end democratic society would come to a solution.


In the bitter debate on raising the debt ceiling, this solution is slow in coming. Sooner or later the ladies and gentlemen in Washington will probably be forced to adopt some kind of compromise to keep their country from going to the dogs. But is it really a solution?


Since the Congressional elections last November, the U.S. hasn't been governed but managed. The country continues to suffer from the after-effects of the recession, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from mismanagement by the previous Bush government. And now, on top of everything, the election campaign is beginning. With the advent of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives, the Republicans are taking the route of imposing a total blockade. Their goals are clearly defined: Show strength and take Obama down.


Whether their political demands for budget cuts, lower taxes, and less government are justified in this case is a matter for discussion. But what’s really unbearable is how this radical fringe group is making a fool of a properly elected president.


The embarrassing fuss that is currently playing out in Washington is called “checks and balances” in the United States. The idea behind it can be found in every democracy and is basically valid: The head of government should not have the all-powerful authority to do as he pleases.



In fact, after a new president or chancellor is elected, Americans and Germans alike tend to strengthen the opposition in Congress or the Bundestag. The hope is that this will create balance and stability - but if the two camps become radicalized, there is risk of an impasse.


Part 2: Oskar LaFontaine did it in Germany


Oskar LaFontaine demonstrated how it works when he virtually paralyzed the federal government of Helmut Kohl with a total blockade of the Bundestag. In substance, LaFontaine’s opposition may have been justified, but Kohl was the properly elected head of state. Neither Germany nor the U.S. can afford to allow the government to be paralyzed by the opposition.


In America, the Congressional blockade is taking on absurd characteristics, with even many Republicans feeling that playing with fire has gone decidedly too far. If it were up to John Boehner, the Republican leader in Congress, the opposition would long since have agreed to a compromise with Obama. The proposal presented by the “Gang of Six,” three respected representatives from each party, would have been the ideal basis for an agreement.


But the Tea Party doesn’t want an agreement, and certainly not compromise. And Boehner lacks either the courage or the power to finally ignore these contrarians in his ranks.



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Jornal Do Brasil, Brazil: American Default and the End of 'Zero Risk'
The Telegraph, U.K.: World Needs America to Come to its Senses
El Pais, Spain: Playing Chicken is the World's Newest Sport
Mainichi Shimbun, Japan: U.S. Must Prevent Another 'Made in U.S.' Disaster
Yomiori Shimbun, Japan: U.S. Lawmakers Should 'Stop Playing Political Games'
Yezhednevniy Zhurnal, Russia: The U.S. and Soviets: Pyramid Builders to Raiders
Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany: 'Radical' Republicans Threaten U.S. with Ruin
Tiscali Notizie, Italy: The Fiscal Decline of the 'Apocalypse'
News, Switzerland: Notion: 'Pay Politicians Based on Performance'
Salzburger Nachrichten, Austria: Debt Ceiling Attack By Republicans 'Backfires'
Gazeta, Russia: America's Astonishing 'Battle for the Ceiling'
People's Daily, China: U.S. Game of Chicken Threatens Creditors and Economy
Die Zeit, Germany: U.S. Risks 'Plunging World' Into New Financial Crisis
O Globo, Brazil: Global Economy Hangs on 'Mood' of U.S. Voters
The Telegraph, U.K.: Down on the Fourth of July: The United States of Gloom
Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: For Americans, a Dour Independence Day
Financial Times Deutschland, Germany: Who Cares about the U.S. Economy?
Folha, Brazil: U.S. Conservatives Threaten to Plunge U.S. into 'Lost Decade'


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For the Tea Party, a national bankruptcy of the United States - the global economic consequences of which cannot yet be predicted - would be a political victory: The government 10,000 civil servants and limit itself to the bare minimum. Wonderful! That’s exactly what these radical populists have been demanding for years.


The Republican Party, deeply divided since the Tea Party’s election success, is now caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, it must address these internal power struggles in order to define the party’s future direction. But at the same time, it must project an outward impression of unity toward Obama. In the end, the fact that these representatives were actually elected to serve the best interests of the country has become a minor matter.


Part 3:  Falling back on a state of emergency


Politically, President Obama would be well-advised to put an end to this humiliating game and to present Congress with a “fait accompli.” He should long since have done - as advised by Bill Clinton - what he feels is necessary, namely, raise the debt ceiling himself, circumventing Congress and setting an example. He could invoke a provision in the Constitution that grants the President such powers during an emergency.


[Editor's Note: The author refers to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which reads: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."]


Whether it is legal to take such action alone is questionable and would one day have to be decided in court. Now, however, it would be a demonstration of strength from Obama: I won’t be made a fool of and I won’t let my country go to the dogs! I’ve tried to get the job done using an amicable approach, I’ve made compromises, and I’ve been patient. Enough is enough!  



With such a step, the president would win a lot of sympathy among the population and in economic circles. Americans like people who take action - and they’re more than fed up with the blockade in Washington. Whether the reforms Obama wants to implement to restore the country’s vigor are the right reforms is up for debate. One thing is certain: In November 2008, Obama was elected to implement these reforms. Shouldn’t he at least have a chance to do so?



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 31, 5:59pm]


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