TL(PM) DIGEST: No stop signs, speed limit on the highway to default
Plus Ukraine's grain stays on the market, Beijing plays for influence in Central Asia, and Senate Ds reintroduce paid family leave
1. Republicans appear to have the upper hand with the public on the debt ceiling standoff
What happened? New polling from AP/NORC finds that few Americans are paying close attention to the standoff between Congress and President Biden over whether and how to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. defaults on its debts. However, more than 6 in 10 Americans overall—including 58 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans—favor increasing the debt limit “only if lawmakers include reductions on the deficit” compared to less than one fifth who favor an increase “without conditions.”
Why does it matter? America is fast approaching the limit on its ability to pay for authorized spending, including national debt obligations and other government-provided benefits and programs. Although people aren’t paying close attention to the details of the negotiations, most are very worried about a possible negative outcome: “Two-thirds of the public are very or extremely concerned about the impact on the national economy if the United States defaults on its loans.”
TLP’s take: With time running out, it’s not surprising that President Biden is apparently close to offering some concessions to House Republicans on the debt ceiling, although the details are not yet known and the fate of such a compromise in the House still up in the air—and it certainly doesn’t help that House Republicans appear to have walked away from the table even after Biden canceled the bulk of his Pacific trip. These poll results show that House Republicans have the upper hand for now, at least in the abstract.
Americans are clearly worried about the possible chaos of default and therefore most favor some deficit reduction measures as part of any deal to avoid this self-inflicted wound. It’s not a pretty situation, or a fair one. But that’s where the nation’s leader finds himself—between a rock and a hard place.
2. Ukraine grain deal renewed and Zelenskyy’s globe-trotting diplomacy
What happened? Moscow and Kyiv agreed to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative that allows Ukraine to ship its grain to world markets for two more months—without giving into Russian conditions for its extension. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy continues his diplomatic world tour, visiting Jeddah for the Arab League summit before heading off to the G7 conclave in Japan.
Why does it matter? The grain deal renewal will ensure at least some Ukrainian grain reaches global markets, while giving Turkish President Erdogan a diplomatic achievement to tout ahead of his upcoming run-off election at home. Zelenskyy’s invitation to attend the Arab League summit is a surprise given Saudi Arabia’s diffident attitude toward the war (to say nothing of its push to bring the murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in from the cold), but his presence at the G7 summit makes sense given the military and economic support those nations have given Ukraine.
TLP’s take: While Moscow will undoubtedly attempt to once again use the expiration of the grain deal in two months to extort concessions from Ukraine, it’s also shown that its threats to end the agreement remain hollow and should not be taken seriously. It remains to be seen whether Riyadh’s invite to Zelenskyy represents a new tack on Ukraine or an attempt to mitigate the diplomatic damage done by hosting Assad for the summit as well.
3. Beijing plays diplomat and financier in Moscow’s backyard
What happened? China hosted a summit of five Central Asian nations—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—in Xi’an today, promising billions of dollars in financial aid to countries Moscow has long regarded as part of its natural sphere of influence. While overall trade between these nations and China remains small in the grand scheme of things, it did increase by 70 percent last year.
Why does it matter? Moscow has long considered Central Asia to be part of its natural sphere of influence, with Russian troops intervening in Kazakhstan just month before the Kremlin launched its aggression against Ukraine. But Central Asian nations have not hopped on the Putin bandwagon over the past year and a half or so, giving Beijing an opening to expand its own influence—and exposing the limits of its “no limits” relationship with Moscow.
TLP’s take: The more Beijing’s attentions can be focused on Central Asia, the better for the United States and its allies—and the more that puts Beijing in conflict with Moscow, the better. There may be limits to what America can do to encourage this under-appreciated rivalry, but we and our allies should do what we can to help Beijing look west rather than east.
4. Senate Democrats reintroduce national legislation to guarantee paid family leave
What happened? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut reintroduced this week the Family Act, federal legislation that would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for new mothers and those with long-term medical issues or elder care needs.
Why does it matter? As Axios reports,
The U.S. is one of only six countries in the world that doesn't guarantee any paid time off to new mothers. The lack of a paid leave policy is one reason women's labor force participation in the U.S. lags behind other countries—an issue likely to exacerbate long-term labor shortages.
The Family Act would provide paid time off for mothers and other caregivers by levying a 0.4 percent payroll tax shared between employers and employees to cover the costs of this time off, as several states already have in place.
TLP’s take: New parents and caregivers shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and important family matters when viable temporary paid leave models are available. These plans will not harm businesses and are good for employee retention and child rearing; most privately employed professionals already enjoy these benefits through corporations and businesses—we should guarantee these benefits for all Americans as well.
Just one more thing…
Feeling down? Listen to the birdies: seeing our fine feathered friends flit about and hearing them sing their songs may help lift our spirits by reminding us of our connection to nature.