Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Government shutdown means the end of US strength, influence

By Nicholas Kristof  /  NY Times News Service, NEW YORK

Hard-line House Republicans seem to think that their ability to inflict pain on 800,000 federal workers by furloughing them without pay gives them bargaining chips. The hard-liners apparently believe that their negotiating position is strengthened when they demonstrate that they can wreck US governance.

The stakes rise with the approach of the debt limit and the risk of default — which the US Department of the Treasury notes could have an impact like that of the 2008 financial crisis and “has the potential to be catastrophic.” Astonishingly, Republican hard-liners see that potential catastrophe as a source of bargaining power in a game of extortion: We do not want anything to happen to this fine US economy as we approach the debt limit, so you’d better meet our demands.

In this situation, it strikes a false note for us as journalists to cover the crisis simply by quoting each side as blaming the other. That’s a false equivalency.

The last time House Republicans played politics with this debt limit, in 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating. In the long run, that may mean higher debt payments and higher taxes.

My opening example of a president scuttling naval ships was ludicrous. No one would do that. However. if the US defaults because of extremist House Republicans, the cost could be much greater to its economy and to its national security than the loss of a few aircraft carriers.

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