In Hollywood, the summer film season is marked by big-ticket blockbuster movies that can make or break a studio depending on how well they fare at the box office.
Washington is following a similar pattern. Lawmakers are already preparing for another cliffhanger over America’s debt ceiling limits. The upper limit on federal borrowing, currently allowed by Congress to rise above $16.4 trillion, will need to be officially raised by mid- to late- summer after a temporary exemption expires in May. Failing to do so would wreak havoc in the credit markets and risk the U.S. defaulting on its debts.
The prospect of another go-around is a troubling one. The politics of the 2011 fight over raising the debt ceiling essentially led to the current across-the-board government spending cuts, or sequestration. Those cuts, and other federal spending shifts, created budget headaches for governors, mayors and city co
uncil members around the country.
“They’re frankly very worried,” said Lisa Lambert, a journalist with Thomson Reuters, in an interview for the American Security Project’s Flashpoint blog. Lambert, who covers such state and local issues, said the politics of the debt ceiling and other high-stakes fiscal issues are changing the dynamics between Washington and the rest of the country.
America’s competitive position has state and local roots, even if most of the policies that impact our standing are decided inside the Beltway.
“When we start coming up against the debt ceiling again this summer, the mayors are on guard, the governors are on guard to make sure that the federal government once again doesn’t come up with a compromise that creates cuts for them or creates difficulties for them,” she said.
It also forces state and local officials to be resourceful, and to look farther afield for investment and growth. China is one increasingly popular alternative, Lambert pointed out.
A group of U.S. governors is heading to China where they will meet with Chinese officials, as well as Governor Gary Locke, former Washington State and the U.S. Ambassador to China. In the District of Columbia, officials recently visited China as well and met with technology and real estate executives as part of a trade mission in support of the District’s five-year economic plan.
Even if the debt ceiling fails to incite another political fight over federal spending this summer, expect more such missions as state and local governments aim to boost their own competitive position without help from Capitol Hill or the White House.
If lawmakers can take one thing from Hollywood’s experience with do-or-die blockbuster films, they should remember that a sequel rarely gets as good of a review as the original.
Listen to the full interview below:
Check out ASP’s White Paper on American Competitiveness that discusses these issues further:
Read our Blogs and Listen to our other podcasts in the series: