‘Then shut it down’

6 Oct

You may have had to be operating from an under-rock locale not to know that the U.S. government has been shut down since October 1, because of Congress’s inability or lack of desire to pass a budget.  I say “lack of desire” because Congress and the President have been able to agree on a budget all but 19 times that the question has come up since 1976.  I know 19 times seems like a lot, but if we look at the history of government shutdowns, most since 1976 have resulted in disruption of services for ten days or less.  Several of those have lasted for a matter of a day or two.  We’re nearing the end of day six of the 2013 iteration of government shutdown.

What gets me is the number of people who criticize President Obama for the current budget stalemate.  Historically, the President proposes a budget that Congress then acts upon.  However, it is Congress’s constitutional responsibility, not the President’s, to pass a budget.  Congress’s refusal to do so on the grounds they are fighting on is stupid and irresponsible.  They are fighting a fight they’ve already lost.  Obamacare is law.  It has been held up in the court system, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Holding Americans hostage on the basis of Obamacare reeks of sore-loser behavior.

Shutdowns outside of government:  The government isn’t the only thing that shuts down when a budget can’t be reached.  The example that pops into my head most fervently is sports.  In the last few years, three of the four major sports — basketball, football and hockey — have had between minor and major disruption to their activities because of issues relative to spending equity.  And the fourth, baseball, has only just recently discovered relative labor peace, but they had to endure the cancellation of a World Series (1994) and a huge chunk of games to get there.

In sports, lockouts and strikes amount to millionaires and billionaires fighting over billions of dollars, while the fans take the heat.  In government, it’s politicians and people we elect to get things done fighting over money that has been entrusted to them by the American people through income taxes.

Shutdown in popular culture: One of the major examples of a government shutdown from popular culture was an episode of West Wing that aired on November 19, 2003.

One thing I can say for sure is that our government won’t stay shut down forever.  I do tend to agree with one of my friends who commented recently that if our country were any less of a “world power,” we’d have bigger countries chomping at the bit to exploit all of the weakness we’re showing.  I wonder what the ultimate cost — in dollars and political capital — this shutdown will have.

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One Response to “‘Then shut it down’”

  1. PAL October 7, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    At the moment its just an annoyance for citizens and yet more fodder for talk radio hosts. But if things stretch out past the 17th and America ends up defaulting on its debts (due to the ceiling change) then lots of people are in big trouble.

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