German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble questioned on Tuesday how the United States could deal with its high levels of government debt after November’s presidential election.
In a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament to open a debate on the 2013 German budget, Schaeuble said worries about U.S. debt were a burden for the global economy, hitting back at Washington which has criticized Europe for failing to get a grip on its own debt crisis.
In private, German officials often express concern about U.S. debt levels and the inability of American politicians to reach a consensus on how to reduce it, but Schaeuble’s public remarks underscore the extent of the worries in Germany.
“Ahead of the election in the United States there is great uncertainty about the course American politics will take in dealing the U.S. government’s debts, which are much too high,” Schaeuble said. “We need to remind ourselves of that sometimes and the global economy knows that and is burdened by it.”
A weak economy and political gridlock in Washington have prevented meaningful debt reduction in the United States, and with three weeks still to go in the fiscal year, the federal government already has notched its fourth straight trillion-dollar deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has established a close relationship with Obama and they are of one mind on many foreign policy issues, but members of her conservative party have welcomed the Romney campaign’s focus on debt reduction.