October 9th, 2013
03:19 PM ET

What I'm reading: What default would say about idea of America

By Fareed Zakaria

“Recent threats to shut down the government or, worse, default on the debt represent a revocation of the rules. In its nihilism, the Tea Party is closer in spirit to the nullifiers of the 1830s, who were willing to put the union at risk to defeat a national law,” writes Stephen Mihm for Bloomberg.

“‘Let it never be forgotten,’ Calhoun once said, that ‘where the majority rules, the minority is the subject.’ Perhaps, but nullification and secession, like the Tea Party tactics of today, elevated the minority into a position of terrifying power. One tyranny simply replaces another.

“These tactics have long-term costs. If the U.S. defaults on its debt because a handful of Republican legislators don’t like a law vetted by all branches of government, the damage will go beyond a much lower credit rating. Something else – a sense that the U.S. is, for all its differences, united – will have been lost.”


“Managing the congressional politics around sustaining Afghan forces after the transition was feasible back when Washington assumed that a troop surge before the transition would put the Taliban on a glide path to extinction,” writes Stephen Biddle in Foreign Affairs.

“The United States would still have had to give billions of dollars a year to the ANSF, but the war would have ended relatively quickly. After that, it would have been possible to demobilize large parts of the ANSF and turn the remainder into a peacetime establishment; aid would then have shrunk to lower levels, making congressional funding a much easier sell. But that is not the scenario that will present itself in 2014. With an indefinite stalemate on the horizon instead, the politics of funding the ANSF will be much harder to handle – and without a settlement, that funding will outlast the Taliban’s will to fight only if one assumes heroic patience on the part of Congress.”


"Traditionally, when American politics encountered the problem of divided government – when, say, Nixon and Eisenhower encountered Democratic Congresses, or Bill Clinton a Republican one – one of two things happened," writes Jonathan Chait in New York magazine. Either both sides found enough incentives to work together despite their differences, or there was what we used to recognize as the only alternative: gridlock. Gridlock is what most of us expected after the last election produced a Democratic president and Republican House. Washington would drudge on; it would be hard to get anything done, but also hard to undo anything. Days after the election, John Boehner, no doubt anticipating things would carry on as always, said, 'Obamacare is the law of the land.'"

"Instead, to the slowly unfolding horror of the Obama administration and even some segments of the Republican Party, the GOP decided that the alternative to finding common ground with the president did not have to be mere gridlock. It could force the president to enact its agenda."

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. ✠RZ✠

    Which of the following would you agree might be an adverse consequence as a result of the partial government shutdown ?
    a) $16.7 trillion dollar federal debt ?
    b) High unemployment ?
    c) The offshoring of millions of good paying American jobs?
    d) The huge gap between government spending and revenues?
    e) The shrinking middle class?
    f) The shrinking tax base?
    f) The need for quantitative easing?
    g) The need to print billions of dollars in fiat currency?
    i) A subprime mortgage bubble meltdown?
    j) Terrorist acts or use of chemical weapons in warfare?
    k) Economic depression?
    i) The devaluation of the US dollar?
    m) The end of the US dollar as a world reserve currency?
    n) Exposure of hundreds of trillions, if not more than a quadrillion dollars, in derivative deals and credit swaps?
    o) Hyper inflation?
    p) Spiking interest rates?
    q) Global financial and economic instability?
    r) A shortage in the oil supply?
    s) Foreign civil unrest?
    t) Domestic civil unrest?
    u) The potential for World War?
    v) The potential for a sharp decrease in military spending?
    w) The potential of increase taxation and decreased spending?
    x) The bankruptcy of American cities?
    y) Default by the US Postal Service?
    z) Default by the US Government?
    ?) None of the above?

    There, I covered some pretty serious problems ranging from A to Z and there are likely many more that could be added, none of which will likely be resolved any time soon regardless of whether the government is partially shut down or fully operational. So what should you be worrying about?

    October 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  2. Phelix Unger

    Never mind what a default will say but what a disaster a default will have on the U.S. economy! Countries like China, J apan and Saudi Arabia will cease to loan this country any more money and the right-wingers in Washington will cut and gut all non military programs which will throw this country back into a severe depression even worse that the one that happened in 2008!

    October 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  3. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    October 9, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Given all the existing animal species on this planet, none are more brutal and blood thirsty than humankind. Yet we are no physical match for the likes of lions, tigers, and bears just to name a few, nor comparatively speaking anywhere near the strength and ruggedness of a lowly ant. Clearly, it is our own minds and the experience, belief, and knowledge therein that must be reckoned with. Although greed and money have more recently received much notoriety, and rightfully so, historically and to this very day, it is both religion and education that can be held accountable for more atrocities, death, and bloodshed than is imaginable. And so therein lies the "root of all terror", and evil, and fear, and unimaginable devastation. And until these potential horrors are first dealt with accordingly and somehow made agreeable to all, there can be no peace amongst all the living on Earth. One can only wonder what difference might have come by dropping trillions of dollars in internet connections and iPads on other countries, rather than bombs and guns.

      October 11, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  4. Muin

    This was predictable. No one in politics just quietly give up power and wealth. I don't know how much stake many republicans had in old health care system but some lawmakers livelihoods were directly related to old health care system. Demint, rick scott to name a few. So it would be naive for anyone to think for a moment that republican party would just let democrats control health care when they have at least one branch of govt. in their hand.

    October 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  5. j. von hettlingen

    The GOP and its extreme far right allies in the Congress want the US be a "night-watchman" state – liberal dogma of light taxation and minimal state intervention. It worked a century ago, but not today.

    October 11, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  6. rightospeak

    Just like Greece, our default – we will never be able to pay our debt , may be a blessing. In Greece the oligarchs will probably wait till bloodshed will bring it about. The Globalist preach to destroy nationalism yet they burden NATIONS with debt as a means of control. Strange. Why are the criminal bankers responsible for the mess not in jail ? That is very strange !.

    October 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  7. rightospeak

    Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy -all EU colonies will default in time . They need to learn from little Iceland which said no to colonialism. Now the rest of the EU need to ban IMF as a criminal organization, get out of colonial state and provide employment to their people. What are we going to choose ? Colonial slavery of the Big Money Trust or LIBERTY ?

    October 11, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

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