IMAGINE turning on the rolling 24-hour news channel to see a clock on countdown. Not to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Nor to the referendum on Scottish independence. But on a budget measure where there is deadlock between Holyrood and Westminster. That has been the United States.
The political fight over the US government shutdown has lasted more than a fortnight and will roll into 2014.
Regardless of recent events, the fight will not end and it will continue in the new year. If the entire US government budget defaults at any stage then the US cannot pay its bills. That would precipitate a crisis in the worldwide economy. So this really matters. The political blame game is in full cry. The US is a two-party state. The Republicans are split. Many utterly detest their Democrat president. They want to gut the contents of Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation. This introduces what we might recognise as a health service for millions of Americans for whom there is currently none. Other Republicans take a less partisan view and recognise that Obama won the last presidential election on the basis of his healthcare plan. So he has the political authority for his plan which, at a state level, is being implemented across the US. The proposed US budget that Obama would agree to is actually what Republicans want. But they simply cannot agree on their position. They get the reduction in overall government spending they want. But because Obama gets his healthcare policy funded the Republicans oppose the overall deal. Bizarre. How does this look at state level? The Republicans’ extraordinary position is being led by Senator Ted Cruz. He is a right-wing Texan with his eyes on a run at the White House.
He opposes everything Obama proposes. He is leading the so-called Republican political strategy. In Texas that plays well with voters. Texans take a dim view of a Democrat in the White House. They take a pretty jaundiced view of Washington DC. Texas is energy-rich and is in a healthy budgetary situation.
Texas does not need Washington DC. The Texas governor occasionally talks the language of secession. Few really believe that the Lone Star State will leave the union.
But the odd bit of sabre rattling keeps Washington DC honest. This approach can be counter-productive. Despite Nasa’s space control centre being in Houston, the Democrats decided to refuse the Texas request to put the retiring space shuttle in a city museum.
Instead it is going to California. California voted for Obama. Texas did not. Does all this political fighting matter on the other side of the Atlantic? Yes, because EU-US trade talks have been stalled. A free-trade deal would yield main street dividends for US states like Texas – 740,000 new US jobs would be created and Texas would get 68,000. A US government shutdown matters at any time. Americans are fed up with a political game that limps from crisis to crisis. But not many US politicians are offering a fix to this political squabble. A further round is inevitable.