In their eagerness to nip Barack Obama’s health care scheme in the bud, the extremists within the Republican Party may have grasped a Tartar. Their opposition has enforced a shutdown of the government of the United States of America. For these extremists, many of whom, according to one quip, spend most of their time embarrassing other Republicans, opposing one policy package is more important than the functioning of the government of their country. This shutdown, the first in 17 years, could not have come at a worse time. The US economy was just beginning to show signs of climbing out of an abyss and now it has been hit by this complete paralysis of the political system. There is the hope that the shutdown will be short but what is significant is that it sets a precedent, the implications of which are profoundly disturbing for the Republican Party as well as for the US. There are doubts about the Congress being able to meet the deadline in the middle of October to raise the government’s debt ceiling. The decision to paralyse the government — something that could have been easily avoided — reveals an alarming propensity to fly against a given political reality. The tea party wing of the Republican Party obviously believes that the purity of its beliefs is more important than the dictates of a given situation. It is oblivious of how self-defeating its actions are. A US government unable to act because it does not have any money is not something that an American could be proud of.
Given the size and the importance of the US economy, the shutdown will inevitably have an adverse impact on other countries. In India, exporters are worried about the shutdown as this would hit economic activity in the US and lead to a plummeting of India’s exports. Exports to the US account for 13 to 14 per cent of India’s total exports. India cannot afford to let this decline but it may not have any control over the situation if the shutdown continues for too long. Other countries would also face similar problems. The ultra-conservatives in the Republican Party cannot be unaware that they are playing with very high stakes. What makes this worse is that there are no indications that the configuration of the Congress will change after the elections in 2014. A dark cloud looms over the US and thus over the global economy as well. Yankee Doodle may not be able to come to the world, not even on a pony.