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Time bombs still ticking in Washington

08-03-2011 08:45 BJT

BEIJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- The world-rattling debt limit fight in Washington finally ground out a truce Tuesday, just in time to pull the United States back from the brink of a possibly earth-shaking default.

The months-long tug of war between Democrats and Republicans, however, failed to defuse Washington's debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer.

Meanwhile, the madcap farce of brinkmanship has disclosed yet another ticking bomb in the heartland of the sole superpower in the world -- the crippling tendency to politicize the economics while trivializing the politics.

Largely in line with the predominant projection, lawmakers from both sides of Washington's political divide capped their gruelling game of chicken with a compromise barely before the deadline when the Treasury Department said Uncle Sam would run out of money to pay the bills.

The last-minute deal did head off the gloomy scenario that the largest economy in the world could not honor its IOUs. But obviously, the combination of a debt limit increase and a spending reduction did not pack a punch powerful enough to make any sizable dent in Washington's deeper fiscal woes.

With its debt already almost equaling its gross domestic product, the United States, as a major anchor of the increasingly globalized world economy and the issuer of the dominant international reserve currency, needs to roll out more responsible and effective measures to balance its budget and restore the economic health of itself and the world.

Should Washington continue turning a blind eye to its runaway debt addiction, its already tarnished credibility will lose more luster, which might eventually detonate the debt bomb and jeopardize the well-being of hundreds of millions of families within and beyond the U.S. borders.

While trying to locate an exit out of the drink-poison-to-quench-thirst quagmire, U.S. politicians should also conduct some serious soul-searching in the wake of the protracted ordeal, which could have been far less dreadful. After all, it is already the 79th time in half a century that Washington has raised its debt ceiling.

During the nasty debt limit battle, played out against the backdrop of next year's presidential election, U.S. political veterans had for months spared no spittle in sparring over the basically technical issue with morally overcharged rhetoric, until sanity prevailed again days before the projected default date. As The New York Times columnist David Brooks noted, it was "phenomenally hard to figure out exactly who was offering what."

Whether Washington's political elite, intent on grabbing maximum political gain, intended the chaos or not, it is advisable that one should not mess around on the edge of an abyss. Given the heft of the United States, such a dangerous practice is tantamount to a bomb of mass destruction. If left unattended, it might explode, and the whole world will have to deal with the shock waves.

That's not to say that U.S. politicians should stop exploring their wisdom or pursuing their ideals. But at a time of ordeal, like the current moment of high unemployment in the United States and fragile economic recoveries across the world, it just makes more sense to talk about responsible government than to argue over big government or small government.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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