Tuesday 23 May 2017

US beyond ken of Founding Fathers

America has greater problems than this latest budget showdown, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

THERE was an amusing moment on Thursday when a hapless BBC newsreader told viewers that General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the US Army, had said "that they needed to resolve this budget shit shutdown as soon as possible". It was, of course, a slip of the newsreader's tongue, but he was speaking for millions who are wondering if the stand-off between the Obama administration and the House of Representatives is liable to play merry hell with the global economy.

Now, so far, all that's happened is that 800,000 federal employees have been sent home because there will be no money to pay them until a spending bill is agreed. Such shutdowns are, in fact, an old American custom. This is the 12th since 1981.

There were four during the Reagan presidency and two under Clinton, one of which lasted for 21 days. The federal roof didn't fall in and the world wasn't terrified, but then both Ronnie Reagan and Bill Clinton were seasoned negotiators who accepted that a legislative-executive power struggle was an integral part of the American constitution and regarded such challenges as a call to roll up sleeves and strike a deal with the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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