September 1, 2011  

Debt debacle

To congressional Republicans for turning a medium-term problem into an immediate crisis by threatening to block efforts to raise the debt ceiling.

When a bloc of House lawmakers demanded spending cuts in return for the heretofore routine step of approving the repayment of America’s debts, they hijacked the country’s unblemished reputation as a borrower and wounded its international credibility. An 11th-hour compromise prevented economic disaster but could not ward off entirely unnecessary damage.

In a stroke, the lawmakers — mostly, but not entirely, GOP freshmen — showed world lenders, governments and publics that the U.S. government they help run is dysfunctional enough to point a loaded rifle at the country’s foot, if not quite foolish enough to pull the trigger.

Besides bringing the economic pain of lower credit ratings and stock prices, the debacle undercut U.S. military and diplomatic efforts to win trust around the globe. It injected more uncertainty into an economy and budget season already rife with it. It affected the morale of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who wondered whether their next paycheck would be an IOU.