The rhetoric over raising the debt ceiling has become increasingly harsh as Democratic and Republican congressional leaders trade barbs back and forth. But as the U.S. inches closer to defaulting on its debts for the first time in history, criticism of Congress is starting to come from beyond our own borders. From France and Germany to China and India, countries around the world are angry that American politicians play with the possibility of a U.S. default like a yo-yo with little regard for the international economic system that depends on American solvency.
Despite China's traditional preference of staying out of the domestic affairs of other nations, senior Chinese officials' frustrations are growing louder and louder. Stephen Roach, the non-executive chairman of Morgan Staley Asia, said senior Chinese officials told him the debt ceiling debte in the U.S. is "truly shocking." "We understand the politics," a Chinise official said, "but your government's continued recklessness is astonishing." And newspapers around the world are voicing discontent with Congress's handling of the debt ceiling:
Conservative German Die Welt: "[T]here are few signs of self-doubt or self-awareness in the U.S. … [The Tea Party movement] sees the other side as their enemy. Negotiations with the Democrats, whether it's about appointing a judge or the insolvency of the United States, are only successful if the enemy is defeated. Compromise, they feel, is a sign of weakness and cowardice."
The German mass-circulation Bild: "What America is currently exhibiting is the worst kind of absurd theatrics and the whole world is being held hostage… Most importantly, the Republicans have turned a dispute over a technicality into a religious war, which no longer has any relation to a reasonable dispute between the elected government and the opposition."
French newspaper Le Monde:"The American politicians supposed to lead the most powerful nation in the world are becoming a laughing stock."
Chinese state-owned newspaper Xinhua: "Given the United States' status as the world's largest economy and the issuer of the dominant international reserve currency, such political brinksmanship in Washington is dangerously irresponsible."
The founding documents of many nations around the world take their inspiration from and quote the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But now, foreigners don't seem to be too inspired watching the intransigent wing of one political party that controls one house of one branch of the federal government hold the entire U.S. hostage. American soft power has taken a self-inflicted hit as a result of the debt ceiling debate.
Even if Congress manages to forge a deal against the wishes of the Tea Party and deliver a bill to President Obama's desk raising the debt ceiling before default, the damage to our international standing has already been done. Other nations won't forget how some members of Congress were so careless to allow the international economy fall into another financial disaster in order to score a few political points.
Our guest blogger is Ken Sofer, special assistant with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress.