The threat of war certainly gets the attention of the American people, and within the last couple of weeks we’ve been presented with the idea of direct conflict with both Syria and North Korea along with some serious saber-rattling against Russia. As a result, public discourse has focused largely on this one topic to the exclusion of all else.
Of course, that’s a great thing for a political system experiencing epic failures across the board. So let’s think for a minute about what’s happening, and what the politicians don’t want us to think about, while they divert our attention:
- In order to get their nominee for the Supreme Court through the Senate, Republicans invoked the “nuclear option,” changing the rules so they didn’t have to rely on Democratic support. For an otherwise noncontroversial appointment, this illustrates the level of divisiveness between the parties.
- Trump and Ryan’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare went down in flames, and the issue is likely tabled for the foreseeable future. Republicans had seven years to come up with an alternative yet failed to put anything of value on the table, causing Trump to break a major campaign promise (the first of many I’m sure).
- A second promise, tax reform, seems to be similarly dead in the water. The Republicans have no plan at the moment. Same goes for the promise of a stimulus plan.
- After being suspended since 2015, the debt ceiling was put back in place on March 15; a new level will need to be voted on if we want to continue borrowing new money. Interestingly, the Treasury department had built a $425 billion war chest prior to the election, but with Trump in power they’ve spent down most of that rather than continue borrowing, which ensures the Treasury has as little wiggle room as possible to navigate.
- Job creation in March came in at half of what was expected (98,000 vs. 180,000).
- The European Union is in danger. Britain has just sent official notice that it will leave the union after last year’s Brexit vote. France, Germany, and Italy all have elections coming up in the next 12 months, any one of which could see an upset by a nationalist “exit the EU” candidate.
- The Federal Reserve has hiked rates twice since Trump’s election, plans to hike two more times in 2017, and is now talking about reducing its balance sheet. These moves will increase the price of money and remove liquidity from the market, both of which will put pressure on the financial system.
- The last continuing resolution passed by Congress funds government activities through April 28 and a new one has yet to be approved, leading to the possibility of a government shutdown.
With news like that, a distraction sure would come in handy for all involved…