US government on partial shutdown; Japan to raise sales tax by 3 percent; South Korea displays new missiles designed to combat North Korea's arsenal; chemical weapons inspectors head to Syria; unemployment up in Germany; and more
Top of the Agenda: Congress Forces Partial Government Shutdown
Roughly 800,000 federal employees won't go to work today after a stalemate between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate delayed a temporary funding bill (AP). Analysts expect the partial shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $300 million per day, and this effect will accelerate the longer government spending is disrupted (Bloomberg). Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who will send half of his department's 800,000 civilian workforce home today, said the shutdown undermines U.S. credibility (Reuters).
"I hate the fact that I now know what a 'clean C.R.' means. It's the kind of inside-the-Beltway term that the country only learns about when there is some big crisis in Washington, as there is now. A government that functioned would fight over the budget but would ultimately pass a budget," Joe Nocera writes in the New York Times.
"For much of the rest of the world, America's actions seem bafflingly illogical and self-harming. The reality, however, is that the Republican congressmen who have pushed this over the brink are not (by and large), crazy. It is just that their political incentives are now stacked towards confrontation with President Obama," Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times.
"There's nothing wrong with continuing to resist Obamacare even though it has been on the books for three years. What would be strange is if Republicans ended their opposition to it. The law was, after all, passed over almost-unanimous Republican objections. Other large government programs haven't seen as sustained a campaign against them, but they had more bipartisan support at the outset," writes Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.
Japan to Hike Sales Tax in April
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will raise its sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April, and will outline a stimulus package that will offset the impact of the higher tax rate (JapanTimes). The stimulus is expected to include corporate tax breaks and infrastructure spending.
This Backgrounder explains Abe's economic vision for Japan, dubbed Abenomics.
SOUTH KOREA: Seoul displayed new ballistic and cruise missiles designed to target North Korea's artillery and long-range missiles (Yonhap). Both South Korean systems have been deployed.