John R. Smith: Risk of Government Shutdown Rears its Head Again

Looks like another government shutdown deadline is in the cards, in about two weeks. Chances are about 30% for a November shutdown. Since 1981, the government has shut down 10 times in response to funding fights. But that’s enough to tell you that it’s not a calamity when the government partially closes up for a few days. Usually, such shutdowns last from a half day to three or four days, with a couple of exceptions, and only a few agencies actually close.

The people most terrified of shutdowns are all the swamp dwellers. In past shutdowns, the liberals and legacy “journalists” chewed on their fingernails and lamented all the while about the “human suffering.” To them, it’s a shameful episode in the life of the republic. And yet, “Ho-hum” was the more sensible reaction of most Americans. What started out with alarmist warnings ended up being almost business as usual. Shutdowns weren’t as important to the economy or the markets as other developments. Life went on. Adults still worked, kids still played. Social Security and Medicare benefits continued. The stock market rolled on normally. Many Democrats secretly liked the idea of a shutdown because they could then blame the Republicans and enjoy cover–absolution– by their mainstream media allies.

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One reason for not caring much about shutdowns is that federal functions relating to the military and to disaster, emergency assistance, all activities essential to public health, safety and protection of property– over 85% of the federal government– continued to operate.

So, if the government shuts down in a couple of weeks, will the public notice? Well, roughly 9 out of 10 Americans said they didn’t know anyone affected by the last two shutdowns. And in 2019, conducted on ongoing poll and asked the question, “Could the government shutdowns have been a good thing?” The poll revealed that 78% said Yes, and 22% said No. One reason for this: many Americans do not have the benefits and luxuries enjoyed by federal employees, they resent what they see as unjust government largess, and they feel that federal workers are simply getting a paid vacation during shutdowns. This view is buttressed by the New York Times report in 2019 that, since 2000, average pay for federal employees has grown twice as fast as in the private sector.

Federal workers sometimes forget that government is not the be-all, end-all. Which brings us to recognize one of the messages that shutdowns have taught us: The U.S. can function without a lot of the stuff that government does daily. Yes, there are some essential government functions we cannot do without. But there are other functions we can learn to do without if we weren’t so spoiled, or that the private sector could perform more efficiently. Many Americans believe the government should do a lot less and that self-reliance should kick in. So, perhaps the partial shutdown of some government programs should be made permanent, based on lack of need and wastefulness.

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When you think about it, a government shutdown is an extended form of temporary gridlock. And gridlock is a good thing when it pauses the grinding, smothering machinery of government. In truth, gridlock is what I like to see happen. The one thing that the business community loves across the nation is legislative bodies in gridlock. When that happens, it usually means no new regulations and laws are being passed, no new programs are being created along with their attendant new taxes and new regulations. We are wallowing in laws in his country already.

Gridlock is better than malfunction, so maybe we should hope for it. Our U.S. Constitution deliberately makes achieving new legislation and legislative changes difficult. Gridlock and bickering may well be a good price to pay for opposing the progressives and transformers by tying their hands and stopping them from passing more restrictive laws. Handcuffing Washington is usually a good thing, a big win. GOOD things are not so easily created but they are easily destroyed. The great mistake of the disparagers of gridlock is to think that progress comes from legislation, and that more legislation represents more progress. Hooey.

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