A few days in Washington DC with a leading think-tank whose mission is to enhance the ‘Special Relationship.’ 10 meetings a day for 3 days, so not much time for site seeing, but Capitol Hill, the White House and surrounds really are magnificent. We met quite a number of Senators and members of the House of Representatives, spoke to the World Bank, the State Department (Foreign Office), British Ambassador, business groups, cyber experts, climate and environmental groups, the World Food Programme and a lot of the lobbyists and think tanks huddled round “the Hill”. I even bumped into Bo Derek (remember her?) whose sister is a US Ambassador.
Republicans and Democrats, lobbyists, journalists, diplomatic staff alike are deeply worried about the future of American politics and therefore the world. The Presidential Elections are next year, but the run-up has already started. Both sides are mired in corruption allegations and worse. President Biden is looking very old, and we heard quite ill, which probably will not allow him another 5 years all told. He is currently the sole nominee for the Democrats; Vice-President Harris is widely disliked and seems unlikely to take the top slot, with Gavin Newsum, the Governor of California being tipped as a ‘dark horse’ possibility. President Trump is miles ahead in the Republican stakes, and one recent poll even showed it likely (by 52/48) that he would win the elections if nominated. I personally shudder to think of it.
Meanwhile the President’s Budget which is currently before Congress seemed unlikely to be passed until a last minute 45 day delay package was agreed by the Senate and signed into law by The President. The ‘ins and outs’ are deeply complex, but in essence the House is dominated by the Republicans, the Senate vice-versa and both sides have all kind of axes to grind, resulting in gridlock over defence and social services spending, tax increases and Ukraine. They now have a little breathing space to try to reach a deal and avoid the threatened total closure of the Federal Government, all spending being blocked - with huge consequences for government employees (who get back pay eventually after the crisis, but who have to pay their mortgages in the meanwhile), and worse for contractors and the supply chain whose income is slashed and not repaid. That of course has a real effect on the economy. The deal seems to include a huge cut in support for the war in Ukraine, which Putin will be watching with some glee. The final deal will be worked on further on Monday, but could have real consequences for the US, and therefore the World economy. ‘America sneezes and the World catches a cold.’
It was ironic to come back for a day’s canvassing in South Cerney to hear that the Lib Dems who control Cotswold District Council, and about whose profligate spending we have often warned, have now put out a statement that the Council may go bust within a couple of years unless there are deep and damaging cuts to services. It’s on a different scale, but it’s the same problem. You have to pay your way in this world, and Liberals - in Cirencester and Capitol alike- gain popularity by splashing out other people’s money. Sooner or later reality catches up with them.