Tales from the Trail

Down to the wire…

May 17, 2011

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

Ryan’s comments came a day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell advised CNN’s viewers to see the approaching default deadline as a source of opportunity.

Meanwhile, inflation worries buttressed by still-way-high gas prices are driving U.S. states to consider making silver and gold coins legal tender.  South Carolina is the latest to consider legislation to that effect, joining over two-dozen others in a trend that began this month in Utah.

What happens among the states often has a way of entering the circuitry of presidential politics, as Mitt Romney discovered with the healthcare reforms he championed in Massachusetts.

But at the moment, the presidential campaign debate is focused on Medicare, specifically the mini-GOP civil war between Newt Gingrich and Ryan over the latter’s Medicare reform plan. Newt, currently on the defensive, is being taken to the woodshed today by one of the strongest conservative voices in the United States: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.

Otherwise, the campaign focus is all about not-quite-declared Republican wannabes … like Mitt Romney and his $10.25 million one-day take in Vegas. (Not that raising money from donors is the only role a politician can play in campaign finance these days.)

There’s also Tim Pawlenty massing forces in the early primary state of South Carolina … and the out-of-the-running governor of Mississippi who wants the reluctant governor of Indiana to get in the 2012 race for the White House.

With Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee now ex-wannabes, things could get a lot duller – but perhaps a bit more substantial.

For entertainment, we still have Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, who points out that the IMF chief’s sexual assault arrest came out the same weekend as Osama bin Laden’s porn scandal.

Tired of politics and sex scandals? There are also the fortunes of war, both the lucrative kind and the kind that remind us how warfare can be bad for your health.

Reuters Photo Credits: Chip East (National Debt); Jason Reed (Paul Ryan); Stoyan Nenov (Alexander the Great Coin); Lucas Jackson (body painter paints campaign slogans during campaign fund-raiser); Phelan Ebenehack (Disney)

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