Economy

As US shuts down, rest of the world looks on with bemusement, laughter

International media harangue Congress, theorize about global impact ... and laugh at the absurdity of it all

People look at a sign informing them that the Statue of Liberty is closed due to the government shutdown in Battery Park on October 1, 2013 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When the United States was forced into the first partial federal shutdown in 17 years on Tuesday, the outside world watched in almost disbelief. The U.S. government, which purports to be the world's foremost model for democratic governance, had ground to a temporary halt amidst the drama of partisan squabbling.

The international media were seemingly ready to cast blame, and Congressional Republican leaders bore the brunt.

From London to Beirut commentators have let rip, sharpening their pens – and their criticism - for one side of the aisle in particular.

“There is a frustrating tendency in American political reporting to adopt a position of "both sides-ism" – as in, "both sides" are equally to blame for the nation's chronic political dysfunction,” writes The Guardian  Michael Cohen, before pointing the finger of blame firmly in the direction of the Republican Party

Cohen sees members of the GOP’s right-wing – including Sen. Ted Cruz of recent filibuster fame – as the instigators of this shutdown. He even called Sen. Cruz “the GOP’s self-made monster” in a separate op-ed last week.

“That the U.S. will have come to such a pass – for no reason other than the extremism of the Republican Party – is an important reminder of who is blame for the governing dysfunction that has come to define the U.S. democracy today,” he writes.

In Lebanon’s Daily Star, columnist David Ignatius pinned blame for the shutdown on Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who he says is “on track to be the worst speaker in modern American history.”

“Unable to control his own caucus, negotiate effectively with the president or pass legislation, he flounders in office – a likable man who is utterly ineffective,” Ignatius wrote in a Monday article.

A Tuesday editorial in The Australian contended that the world might pay a price for what the editorial staff sees as political maneuvering on the part of House Republicans.

“Using Obamacare as the battering ram in the Republican campaign against the President is both irresponsible and damaging for the U.S. and the global economy,” the editorial said.

The shutdown of a superpower like the United States – with its multi-trillion dollar economy – could conceivably send shockwaves across the globe, but international observers seem confident the crisis will be resolved soon enough.

Stock markets worldwide climbed on Tuesday as investors largely shrugged off the partial shutdown, betting that it would be short-lived.

Instead of dwelling on the potential economic consequences of a shutdown – which could be minimal if lawmakers can resolve the impasse quickly – the world is shaking its head at what is perceived as an absurd debacle of Congress' making.

“The world looked on with a little anxiety and a lot of dismay, and some people had trouble suppressing smirks,” wrote Kevin Sullivan in a piece for Malaysian outlet Awani entitled, “US shutdown leaves the world scratching its head.”

While Russia Today devoted an entire article to U.S. shutdown comedy, featuring noteworthy images and tweets carrying the #govtshutdown hashtag, photojournalist Lynsey Addario tweeted from India that the shutdown was not being taken too seriously.

“I'm in India, and my driver and translator are laughing at U.S. govt shutdown. So much for world's great superpower. It's closed,” she said in a Tuesday tweet.

Optimistic analysts in developing countries initially posited that there might be something else to smile about in the event of a prolonged shutdown: growth. They floated the idea that if the American economy stumbles, it could open the door for marginal growth in emerging economies.

In India, analysts downplayed those early predictions that a U.S. shutdown would be a good thing for their country.

“Expecting that some large amount of money would flow towards India based on this incident, it would be taking optimism to a ridiculous level” Sandeep Shenoy, Executive Director of Institutional Equities at Anand Rathi Securities, told The Economic Times of India.

“This glitch will get ironed out," Shenoy added, referring to the shutdown.

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