Old men and their tired faces. Pouchy cheeks and droopy eyes. Advised to watch their cholesterol and get the prostate checked.
On Thursday, America will be prostrate before its creditor nations unless by then the elderly men of Capitol Hill can agree to raise the Federal Government debt ceiling.
Shouldn’t be too difficult, gentlemen, deciding how much more we are allowed to ask to borrow; especially since our creditors cannot afford to refuse. We are, proverbially, too big to be allowed to fail.
Cut to Jim Yong Kim, lively and elegant in his cutaway collar. The chair of the World Bank is speaking about the dire consequences of American default – if it were allowed to happen on Thursday. Born in Seoul, raised in the Mid-West, former principal of Dartmouth College, nominated by President Obama – no less, he is Korean-American, surely symbolising this century as a co-production between East and West. Or if next week is truly telling, perhaps he already represents the changing face of power. Power having acquired distinctively Asiatic features, whereas until now it’s been too early to tell.
Gentlemen, we are, proverbially, too big to be allowed to fail.
Yet fail they might if they don’t sort themselves out in four days. Perhaps there will be an agreement before then, in which case the questions asked will be cut back to just one: what took you so long? But the answer to this question is also the reason why the default deadline may well go unmet.
Washington’s Congressmen have been ta(l)king so long because they’re in a double bind: if they act like the far-sighted, can-do country they used to be, this would entail substantive recognition of their current status as a dependent nation, increasingly reliant on the surplus produced elsewhere. On the other hand, as long as they lack the courage to look into this abyss, they also lack the gumption to get that crucial deal together. Aside from politicking in the West Wing and shenanigans on Capitol Hill, this is the existential crisis underlying Washington’s imminent debt crisis.