I keep meaning to write a follow up post on U.S. public opinion on climate change and how and why it matters for the world. But, the ongoing political posturing over raising the debt ceiling keeps commanding my attention. Everything I’ve read suggests that failure to resolve this by August 2nd would be what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called a “self-inflicted wound” on the part of the United States and potentially send the world in to an economic tailspin of perhaps unprecedented proportions. While we can’t know for sure what would happen, most sane observers of this unfolding catastrophe – Sebastian Mallaby, James Lindsay, Dan Drezner, the U.S. business community, David Brooks, David Frum – suggest that this is one of those things in life that it would be wiser not to find out by trying our luck.
In addition to these forces, markets were not punishing the United States because I think there was this expectation that surely American political leaders would sort this out. Yes, there will be this to and fro of political demagoguery on both sides as the country’s leaders try to position themselves for maximum political advantage. But, in keeping with Winston Churchill’s maxim, the Americans will ultimately do the right thing after trying everything else first.
In this case, the blinkered brinksmanship by both parties, but particularly House Republicans, has brought the country close to what might be an economic apocalypse. I do not write those words lightly, and I do actually mean them. My wife and I are expecting are first child in a matter of weeks, and I seriously worry that these so-called leaders may tempt fate by failing to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction, one that includes both spending cuts AND new sources of revenue.
With climate change and the world’s increased environmental footprint, I worry about what kind of world our son will come into over the medium- to long-run. With the failure of the United States to raise the debt ceiling, I worry what kind of world he will be born into in three weeks. I am normally not prone to such dystopian thinking, but I hope for the sake of my family, your family, humanity as a whole that our leaders come to their senses and realize that now is not the moment to roll the dice with the global economy.
If you want to read what I’ve read on this, take a look at the last ten days of my Twitter feed.