The value of the American dollar is based on a number of factors, including inflation, GDP growth, government debt, and perhaps most importantly the perception that the government and economy are stable. Given the last factor, I wonder what the world thinks is happening in the U.S. and how it will affect us? Recently, I wrote about how Fitch Ratings credit rating agency had downgraded the credit rating for the U.S. government from AAA to AA+. This was the only the second time in U.S. history that the country’s credit rating was lowered. The first time was in 2011, when Standard & Poors lowered the AAA rating because of the standoff over the federal government’s spending limit.
A major factor that Fitch cited in its action was what it termed “a steady deterioration in standards of government.” I watched the recent chaos in the House of Representatives, in which four percent (eight representatives) of the Republican conference were successful in removing Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, because he acted in a bipartisan manner by cooperating with the Democrats to extend the time the House has to avoid a government shutdown. This and the debacle of choosing a new Speaker has been a national embarrassment. This cut into the extended time that the House gave itself to avoid a government shutdown. It also paralyzed the U.S. government from acting on the latest war in the Middle East and continuing military aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia.
In this case, party interests far superseded national interests. Fitch hit the nail on the head by referencing a steady deterioration in the standards of government. It is unbelievable that House leadership could put itself in a position where any House member can move to vacate the Speaker’s position. Couple this with House members that spew vitriol and seek media coverage when they are not addressing national and international issues – how stable is our federal government?
At the state level here on the border, Texas Governor Greg Abbott continued to obstruct trade by having Texas DPS troopers stop commercial trucks crossing northbound into the U.S. from Mexico, under the premise of searching for contraband and people illegally trying to enter the U.S. These trucks have already been inspected in Mexico, then they are inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which can x-ray cargo and physically unload it for inspections. Unless there are glaring clues that something is not right with a cargo shipment, Texas DPS cannot open trailers for inspection. They can only stop shipments to do safety inspections.
Historically, commercial trucks coming into the U.S. from Mexico have fewer safety violations than do U.S. trucks. Binational trucking companies tend to be sticklers on safety standards because a truck is often required to go back and forth two to three times a day to deliver cargo. The last thing they want is to be put out of service because of bad taillights or brakes. The DPS secondary inspections are causing the global logistics chain to slow down, which means more expensive products for consumers.
Abbot also recently ordered concertina wire to be installed on the short border that Texas shares with New Mexico along the Rio Grande. This barrier is on the east side of the Rio Grande, where the river is relatively wide compared to other sections in the region. People trying to enter the U.S. are going to pick an easier path to cross the river. If they wanted to cross where the rolls of new barbed wire have been laid between the states, they would simply walk north along the west side of the Rio Grande until the wire barrier ends, and ford the river there. To have a state lay down barbed wire along its border with another state is the worst manner of politicizing border issues, while offering no solutions. I saw the barbed wire with my own eyes, and it looked like some scene from a war zone.
Finally, at the very local level in my hometown of Española, New Mexico, Rio Arriba County officials are pointing fingers at each other as to who decided reinstalling a statue of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oñate at County offices was a good idea. During the pandemic, this statue was removed from its original location and put in storage. Oñate was a controversial figure to Native Americans, but he is looked at as the founder of Spanish culture in New Mexico. The reinstallation was postponed, and a crowd, mostly made up of activists from outside of the region and state, showed up to celebrate the postponement. A Hispanic man wearing a MAGA hat also showed up and apparently started arguing with the protestors. He pulled out a gun and shot one of the protestors.
From a personal standpoint, having grown up among the Native American Pueblos in northern New Mexico, Hispanics and Native Americans get along reasonably well and have done so since after the Pueblo Revolt. The actions of the protestors and the shooter threaten to set back these friendly relations and stoke resentment. If anything, this ugly incident provides an opportunity for Native Americans and Hispanics of northern New Mexico to have an open dialog in order to continue to live in peace without outside instigators. This was another surreal episode that must have the world wondering what is happening to us.