The United States’ budget is an institutional and political road map. The winding path of some highly important proposals around Capitol Hill, for the nation’s finances and therefore those of the rest of the world, is proof of this assertion. One concerned the debt limit or ceiling, which last Wednesday reached a point where it was in danger of a default.
Just the possibility of default encouraged some of the rating agencies to release a warning that the U.S. was at risk of having its international credit rating, which is currently triple A, reduced.
The debt ceiling is linked to the paralysis of an important public administration sector since the beginning of October. This shutdown left hundreds of thousands of workers — hopefully, only temporarily — without work and is due to the lack of a budgetary agreement between the Democrats and the Republicans over the controversial Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.”
Though the conversations seemed to revolve around the differences between Democrats and Republicans, this is only an approximation of the truth. The negotiations make it clear that factors such as the geographical origin of voters and their stances regarding racial, gender and even religious issues has an enormous influence over the way in which public opinion perceives the budgetary debate, and it is to these perceptions that the representatives and senators respond. Programs to improve education in their districts are also a highly important factor for voters.
This multitude of factors that make up the vision and overall preferences of voters from various regions becomes obvious when each representative sets out their thinking and political lines. Inside each district, opinion polls are carried out whose results only partially reflect the party affiliation of those surveyed.
Various examples generally relating to this explain why the Republican speaker had to call on the support of moderate Democrat representatives to compensate for the desertion of conservative Republicans when it came to resolving the dispute. The matter is more complicated still because a divide between liberals and conservatives within the parties is also clear. For example, between the conservative Republicans there are tendencies toward a more accentuated conservatism. The tea party is the visible line of this fracture, which frequently arises in elections and debates. There are similar ruptures among the Democrats.
President Barack Obama summarized his objectives in the negotiations that took place in Congress and the Senate the week before last. Obama asked for the debt ceiling to be restored without additional costs to the United States, as well as for the budgetary disagreement to be resolved in order to restart the administration’s operations.
With the crisis over, at least for the moment, the usual question in these circumstances is who lost and who won. The dust has yet to settle to allow for a more accurate analysis.
However, it is possible to speculate that the citizens won, independently of their political orientation. We hope for the same level of maturity in the days running up to Feb. 7, 2014, the deadline for more lasting agreements on the same issues.