The message is irrevocable. Donald Trump has made things worse. In less than two years of his controversial presidency, the United States of America is on the edge of an economic precipice, and fears that the current occupant of the White House may push it over are dangerously real. The jingle bells must chime oddly this week.
Saturday’s shutdown, that is bound to hit hundreds of thousands, is a dire prologue to the “swelling act” of the Christmas theme. Not that the closure was wholly unexpected; it is the timing that has made it particularly painful. “We are totally prepared for a very long shutdown,” was Trump’s facile justification of an ugly denouement, scarcely realising that a long shutdown hurts millions of people who rely on the government for services and pay cheques.
Hundreds are being sent back; many more have been threatened that they shall not be paid. This is the price that America will have to pay for the Congress refusal to sanction $5.7 billion to build the decidedly absurd wall along the Mexican border. In the wider perspective, the anti-immigration policy has now hit America more than any other country.
The President’s actions have consistently been as impetuous as the style and substance of his electoral campaign. The shutdown is indubitably the outcome of his imprimatur. Congress did offer him a way to continue funding the government, but without the money to construct what has been called his “nonsensical wall”.
As it turned out, Mr Trump refused and has caved in to the rabid rightwing lobby. America lunges from one misadventure to another ~ the equally nonsensical troop pullout from Syria and its immediate aftermath, specifically the protest resignation of the Secretary of Defence, James Mattis.
Altogether, the props of the US government ~ the White House, Pentagon, and the Treasury ~ have been jolted to their foundations with the weekend stoppage of funds and funding. The imbalance is back and Trump is making it worse. Within 24 hours, the shutdown has intensified worries about the economy. The stock market is said to be gearing up for the worst December since the Great Depression.
World markets have lost nearly $7 trillion in 2018, making it the worst year since the 2008 financial crisis. After exactly a decade, the economic blight plagues the US again. Fears that Trump could do something even more alarming are not wholly unfounded. He might not authorise an increase in government borrowing before the federal debt reaches the current limit, which Congress has extended to 2 March.
A default by the US on its obligations would be more calamitous than a government shutdown. It is a bleak winter in the US, and not merely in the climatic sense post the Katowice conference. The country is closed and governance is in limbo in the fountain-head of democracy. The writing on the wall can be as distressing as that.