The world's media watched America's budget negotiations with varying degrees of amusement, amazement and angst, knowing full well that the outcome will eventually reverberate through the global economy.
Americans just can't seem to get serious about putting their own financial house in order, some lament. Others see a dangerous breakdown in the vaunted U.S. separation of powers.
A sampling of world editorial opinion:
"Before any agreement on America's budget deficit can be called a disappointment, it has to pass some pretty stringent tests. . . . The government's inability to manage its finances has long been unworthy of comment; a mere failure to cut the deficit substantially is hardly a letdown. To sink below the demanding standards of political cowardice that Washington now takes for granted, something special was called for. President Bush and the Congress, working together towards a common goal, have proved equal to the task. . . .
"The real reason for America's growing deficit is that, despite speeches and opinion polls to the contrary, Americans--voters and leaders alike--do not really think that the deficit matters much. If they did, the discomfort of higher taxes and lower spending could be inflicted without great political unpopularity. Until they change their minds, the phony war against the deficit will drag on."
--The Economist, London
"Although Washington intends to be the axis of military activity in the (Persian) Gulf and in forging a new world order in the post-Cold War era, its economic base for these projects is increasingly fragile. Foreign exchange markets are reflecting this fact.
"The voices of dissent grow louder among Americans who think Washington should not overcommit in the Middle East with the United States already facing higher taxes, cuts in federal programs, and a slowing economy. . . .
"We hope Washington will recognize the gravity of the situation and reconstruct its economy with haste. . . . Strengthening the U.S. economic base is indispensable for both the United States' international leadership and the stability of world economies.
"The need for money is increasing among developing nations, which were severely hurt by the price increases of crude oil, and in East Europe, which is undergoing large-scale economic reforms. If the United States continues to withdraw funds from abroad to help decrease the budget and trade deficits, these nations will fall into a miserable plight."
--Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo
"A crisis seldom comes alone. Just like Jimmy Carter in his time, Bush has two millstones around his neck: economic and foreign policy. Just like Jimmy Carter, who still stands as the embodiment of fickleness, the threat comes from the Persian Gulf--only many times more potent. Not just 52 embassy hostages, but entire legions come into play: 200 American civilians in the hands of Baghdad's dictator and troops that have grown to 200,000.
"In any event, Bush can hardly count on a repeat of the World War II miracle. America's entry into the war in 1941 ended the Depression once and for all, in that it brought a deflationary, idle economy into full swing. Today, however, in an overly indebted economy, the price of oil, the budget deficit and inflation would mercilessly skyrocket and America, for the first time in its history, would quite possibly fall into an economic crash in the middle of a war.
"All this is no reason for the rest of the world to sedately lean back. . . . On the contrary, it is high time, along with crisis management in the gulf, to take into account a crisis management team for the world economy, in which Germany and Japan fill a key role. . . . "
--Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, Germany
"It is known today, as many knew from the beginning of this saga, that the accounts of the Treasury are one thing and the practice of wishful thinking is something else altogether.
"Not a few analysts (and many of them of clearly conservative conviction) believe that the 'circus of illusions' created during the two Reagan terms had a strong negative impact on the capacity of Americans to understand the need for adopting minimal principles of austerity, leading to a notable decline in the national rate of private savings, an increase in family indebtedness through consumption and, above all, a disinclination toward paying taxes of all kinds, starting with income tax."
--Gazeta Mercantil, Sao Paulo, Brazil
"Beholding the chaos in Washington over the federal budget, longstanding foreign admirers of the world's greatest constitutional democracy are asking whether America has become ungovernable. The separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, regarded by the founding fathers as the keystone of the constitutional arch, suddenly seems problematic. . . .