Ideologues at both political extremes, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) on the left and Fox News host Tucker Carlson on the right, have recently pointed to pet foreign countries as exemplars of what America should strive to be. Yet Sanders and Carlson are each misled by a superficial understanding of what these countries are really about.
As a proud, self-described socialist, Sanders thinks Denmark is a socialist paradise. But in reality, it’s far more free-market oriented than most people give it credit for. As a dyed-in-the-tweed conservative, Carlson has let his enchantment with Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s tough talk against “the libs” blind him to that “leader’s” cruel authoritarianism.
The problem with Alan S. Blinder’s argument for the Gephardt Rule (“A Simple Rule Could End Debt-Ceiling Shenanigans,” op-ed, Aug. 24) is that the budget bills he would rely on are themselves packed with shenanigans. Falsified assumptions and accounting gimmicks are used to conceal the true costs.
Investors who buy U.S. debt are not interested in buying a bundle of fiscal fictions. They want a bond with an actual face value, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. A periodic vote on the debt ceiling is a rare moment of truth, when members of Congress must confront the yawning gap between their promises and the reality of paying for them.
Mr. Blinder’s proposal might be more palatable if it were amended so that the cost estimates in the budget resolutions were binding—authorizing the Treasury to borrow no more than Congress said it would all cost, rather than borrow whatever it takes to fund the enacted programs. If that turned out not to suffice, Congress could always confess error and authorize more debt. But we are doomed if we permit Congress to “err” without ever confessing, and to spend without ever being held to account.
One result is that China is now a net importer of aluminum, and Chinese manufacturers are competing with those in the U.S. and elsewhere for supply. The 10% U.S. tariff, which President Biden has maintained, is further complicating supply chains. So is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement’s new requirement that 70% of autos’ steel and aluminum content be made in the three countries.
“There’s just not enough metal inside of North America,” Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey recently noted. Mr. Biden won’t fix all supply-chain problems by lifting the tariff, but he could at least give U.S. businesses and consumers some much-needed price relief.
Domestically, the Biden administration speaks breezily about “transforming” the financial and energy components of the nation’s almost $23 trillion economy, oblivious about possible unintended consequences. In foreign policy, a chastened administration needs to tailor its objectives to fit its ability to know what it does not know.