TL(PM) DIGEST: Raise the debt ceiling without conditions
Plus more Kremlin hostage-taking, a mayoral election in Chicago, and Biden's decision to skip the coronation of Charles III
1. America still needs to pay its debts
What happened? As the United States government continues to inch closer to defaulting on its debt obligations, neither the Congress nor the president appear any nearer to passing a simple resolution to raise the debt ceiling to avoid an economic meltdown.
Why does it matter? The federal government routinely borrows money when it doesn’t have sufficient revenues to pay its bills. Thanks to an archaic statute, Congress must approve an increase in the debt ceiling to continue normal operations for expenditures approved in the past when it is reached. The last time the U.S. hit the debt limit ceiling occurred in 2011, and it took months for the economy to recover as stocks and retirement savings declined due to the delays in raising the limit.
TLP’s take: Only the dysfunctional politics of the United States could produce a recurring scenario where the American economy and full faith and credit of the country are routinely held hostage by one party to extract policy concessions it can’t pass otherwise. It’s perfectly reasonable for House Republicans to seek to reduce government deficits through the normal process of passing tax and budget legislation, but it’s totally unreasonable and reckless for them to make side demands to raise the debt ceiling—like work requirements on poor people—that have nothing to do with paying for spending for which they themselves have already voted.
2. The Kremlin takes another American hostage
What happened? Russian security services seized Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as a hostage last week and charged him with espionage. President Biden publicly urged Moscow to release Gershkovich, and Secretary of State Blinken telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to demand the reporter’s immediate release. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have also publicly called for Gershkovich’s release.
Why does it matter? Gershkovich’s case marks the latest episode of hostage-taking by Russia and other geopolitical adversaries of the United States like Iran—the months-long detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner and her eventual swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout represents just the most prominent recent example of this new, ongoing global hostage crisis. Moscow, Tehran, and other hostile governments aim to extract concessions from the United States and its allies in exchange for the release of American and allied citizens they hold as hostages.
TLP’s take: There’s no good solution to these hostage situations—the United States and its allies have a duty to free citizens who have been taken hostage by hostile governments overseas, but they often encourage future hostage-taking by offering one sort of reward or another in exchange Americans and others held hostage. More proactively, the United States can do its best to discourage citizens from traveling to countries like Russia, Iran, and China known to take Americans hostage.
3. Chicago voters head to the polls
What happened? Tomorrow is officially Election Day in Chicago as voters head to the polls once again to determine who will be the city’s next mayor. Early voting is already underway and mail-in ballots can be received through April 18, so results may not be fully known tomorrow if the runoff between candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas is close.
Why does it matter? According to polling from WGN-TV, crime is by far the most important issue for voters in the mayor’s race. Fifty-two percent of Chicago voters put crime at the top of the public agenda list far ahead of perennial issues such as education and taxes at around 10 percent. As in New York, San Francisco, and other big cities, rising violent crime—murders, thefts, carjackings, and drug crimes—as well as general social disorder clearly occupy the minds of working-class voters trying to keep their neighborhoods safe and livable.
TLP’s take: Chicago voters ultimately will determine who can best lead the Windy City going forward. But with crime of all kinds on the rise in this deep blue municipality, whichever candidate wins tomorrow better have a viable plan to get things under control. The inability of urban governments to get a handle on these quality-of-life issues affects the larger economic opportunities available to their residents as people and businesses look elsewhere to set up shop amid rising crime and chaos.
Chicago is one of America’s crown jewels. Chicagoans deserve to live in safety and prosperity, with opportunities to work, go to school, and enjoy the city’s many amenities free from concerns about violent crime and social mayhem.
4. Biden to skip the coronation of Charles III
What happened? In keeping with established tradition, President Biden will not attend this May’s upcoming coronation of British King Charles III in London. First Lady Jill Biden will lead an American delegation to the ceremony, the first of its kind in seven decades.
Why does it matter? It shouldn’t—no sitting American president has ever attended the coronation of a British monarch going all the way 1776. President Eisenhower, for instance, declined to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. (Indeed, Woodrow Wilson was the only sitting president to travel to either the UK or Europe before World War II.) Still, some American and British commentators have already declared Biden’s decision to be a snub of one of America’s closest allies.
TLP’s take: Biden’s decision to stay away from the pomp and circumstance of a British royal coronation is only right and proper for the head of state of the world’s oldest democratic republic. There’s no reason to consider the move as somehow derogatory of the “special relationship” between the United States and United Kingdom, a relationship that’s been repeatedly tested over the years but persists due to the shared interests and common values articulated by leaders of both countries going back decades.
Just one more thing…
One of America’s most rewarding and unique music gatherings—the Big Ears Festival—took place this past weekend featuring a blend of jazz, classical, rock, folk, and avant-garde music all within a few blocks in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.