Harold Pease, Ph. D
We’ve had 19 government “shutdowns” since 1977 according to the Congressional Research Service. Some say the weekend “shutdown” just passed may not be the only one this winter because nothing was resolved in the so-called “Schumer Shutdown,” which only extended funding for three-weeks until February 8, ironically what the Republicans first proposed.
Last year Democrats were going to “shutdown” the government if the budget included any border wall funding so President Donald Trump, to avoid such, removed the funding proposal. But a government shutdown is never as bad as portrayed and, in fact, may be a good thing.
In the spring we normally get a budget, which is always higher than the last budget. In the fall we normally get a debt ceiling increase (74 since March 1962) because we could not stay within the budget increase. We raise it every year to accommodate our need for a “fix.” Congress sadly never says no. Does anyone really believe that our debt-addicted government will ever stop the addiction on its own?
Fully a third of our population do not earn all their bread by the sweat of their brow but vote to get the government to take it from someone else’s labor and give to them. We are told that those receiving food stamps are now a third of our population having doubled under President Obama’s watch.
Yes, we have a two-class society—those primarily taking, others primarily maker. Takers will always vote for the party and politicians who promise them more. When that number exceeds 51 percent we will never escape the takers and will have effectively made the making class the new slaves. Some believe takers are close to becoming the majority. Of course some taking groups are necessary as is the military.
Generally in previous “shutdowns” the political parties often reverse position and trade the speeches used in the previous “shutdown.” But the outcome is always the same. The Federal government put non-essential government workers on furlough and suspends non-essential services. Essentially all went on as before except some paychecks were a few days late. Apparently the federal government does know what non-essential services are after all, and is capable of closing them when it has the will.
But nobody this time is warning us: that the increased expenditures add to the national debt, that interest on it increases $5,849 per second, that interest annually increases it by $184 ½ billion, that debt as a percentage of GDP in 106.48%, that each citizen would have to pay $63,191 today to pay that off, and that we are on a fast track to bankruptcy (nationaldebtclocks.org). Our spending addiction has given our children and grandchildren a 20 ½ trillion dollar debt. I like government “shutdowns” because they lessen the national debt and reduce big government by reducing non-essential governmental employment. I lived through all 19 “shutdowns” and only knew one family affected with a delayed paycheck.
Granted it is painful to curb our appetite, but the longer we wait the more painful, drastic, and life threatening it becomes. Most of the programs cut in the “shutdowns,” were not areas of clear constitutional authority as defined in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, so in time such cuts should become permanent or be subjected to the Article V amending process for appropriate authority. With virtually no exceptions getting back to the limits of the Constitution is the only way to deal with our bi-partisan debt addiction.
A budget must always first involve the House of Representatives, as it alone constitutionally must initiate all government spending. “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives” (Article I, Sec. 7, Clause 1). This places the people in charge of taxation, and thus spending, because the House is designed to represent the people and initially the Senate was to represent only the states view—this is why we have two legislative branches. The Senate cannot initiate a tax bill but can adjust any initiated by the House.
The hysteria peddlers using government shutdown terminology, and the media that purposely play to it, must know this emits an extreme emotional response. Moreover, the phrase becomes a weapon to be used on potential government “shutdowners.” It appears designed to frighten the least informed against the other political party, thus the terminology. This enables the media to have undue influence in spending and undermines the sole power of the House on this issue.
Why then the hysteria? Because the possibility of missed handouts by a “shutdown” sends the largely dependent or ill informed into frenzy as they oppose any proposed government diet that might threaten their daily feed. They worshipfully listen to the party and political leaders that are least likely to disturb the gift giving.
There will never be a government “shutdown” short of an overthrow of the government from within, the collapse of our financial structure (which is becoming ever more likely due to our obsession to live beyond our means), or a successful invasion from without. So cease the media frenzy and subsequent over-reaction.
Thus at worst a government “shutdown” is really only a government slowdown or closure of non-essential services and a delay of payment for some few federal employees. So the federal government goes on a long overdue diet and gets back to the basics, which is what most want.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. Newspapers have permission to publish this column. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.