Thoughts On The Government ‘Shutdown’

The current government “shutdown” (which I will heretofore refer to as a “slowdown,” because that’s all it really is) has inspired a number of assorted thoughts on which I thought I’d elaborate below.

1.       The American political system is working.

Michael Barone made this same point earlier this week. This is precisely the system that James Madison and others envisioned when they designed the Constitution. As Madison famously said in the Federalist 51:

[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others…. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place…. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Both parties have blamed the other for the slowdown, but it is not so much that either side caused the slowdown as it is that both chose it.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

The Republican majority in the House won’t fund the government with Obamacare, while the Democrat-led Senate and administration refuse to fund the government (or any part of it) without provisions made to include the healthcare law. Both parties are within their constitutional prerogatives to choose a slowdown over funding the government. They now have to make the case to each other and the American people — and probably compromise — before they can pass the funding to restart the entire government. This is the way the American system was intended to work: slowly, prudently, and deliberately.

2.       The Democrats are showing their true colors.

The executive branch has attempted to make the slowdown painful to prove that we need government, but some of the attempts have backfired.

The National Park Service has closed off — even barricaded — numerous memorials and monuments to the public. Some of these closures make more sense than others. The World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. is among those that is needlessly aggravating. It is clear enough that the closure does not save money; it may cost more to install barricades. But that isn’t the point. For example, the White House Office of Management and Budget Director has given the specific order not to consider whether the cost of shutting down a website might be more than keeping it open.

Furthermore, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid had the following exchange with Dana Bash:

DANA BASH: You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is presumably going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH. Given what you’ve said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren’t you playing the same political games that Republicans are?

HARRY REID: Listen, Sen. Durbin explained that very well, and he did it here, did it on the floor earlier, as did Sen. Schumer. What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed. I don’t know what other word I can use. They’re obsessed with this Obamacare. It’s working now and it will continue to work and people will love it more than they do now by far. So they have no right to pick and choose.

BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?

REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless –

BASH: I’m just asking a question.

Now, I’m not saying Harry Reid hates kids with cancer. What I am saying is that he is so “obsessed” with Obamacare that he is not willing to fund any of the government without it. It is literally all or nothing, partially because Democrats don’t want to defend Obamacare on its merits now anymore than they wanted to when they passed it. Knowing that Republicans aren’t anarchists, they have to attach Obamacare funding to the rest of the government for leverage.

Republicans cannot be said to be playing the same games here, as they have offered NIH funding independent of whether Obamacare is ultimately funded.

3.       It distracts from the real fight that is coming over the real potential crisis: the debt ceiling.

Aside from the aforementioned exceptions, which are easily rectifiable, the government slowdown is largely not affecting the American public. A plunge in the nation’s credit rating would. I’m aware that there are enough tax dollars to service our debt. But do I trust our leaders in Washington to direct the funds toward that obvious solution? Not really.

One final thought:

How the Republicans come out of this will show us their true colors as well. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy smaller government while it lasts.