Shut Down and Shut Up

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Looks like the shoe smiths in the U.S. House simply could not design a glass slipper which would fit U.S. Senate feet, bringing an end to the fairy tale of budget compromise in D.C. As Monday became Tuesday, the royal coach became an unfunded pumpkin and there was no donkey or elephant in sight to give it a yank.

Officially, the government is in shutdown mode because our hired hands could not agree over one point: Affordable Care Act funding. Nonessential services are being put on hold and roughly 800,000 nonessential federal employees are being furloughed. Other workers are being told to stay on the job with no guarantee they will receive a paycheck.

The estimated cost of a prolonged shutdown: somewhere in the rather exclusive neighborhood of a billion bucks. It could be more if it lasts as long as Ted Cruz kept his mouth moving a few days ago.

An irony which cannot be ignored: While government is in shutdown mode, the stock market showed an increase at the closing bell Tuesday. That doesn’t speak well to those on both sides of the congressional aisle who planned to use shutdown as an economic Doom’s Day device.

Now that the infants have nyah-nyahed their way into an impasse, your humble observer is somewhat puzzled by one shutdown term. Merriam-Webster defines “essential” as “extremely important and necessary.” Using the Golden Triangle “nonessential” postulation, wouldn’t that mean about 800,000 federal jobs and a number of government services are not important or, disturbingly, not necessary?

PAT_MUG077Looks like a clarification is in order. Nonessential services, we’re told, include such things as national parks, White House tours, some federal loan applications, gun permits and other little-known activities in little-known agencies. Our military, border patrol and other federal law enforcement agencies, Social Security, Medicare and (hurray) Affordable Care Act provisions are not affected.

In truth, this government shutdown is more of a trim down. The mud in the pudding comes if the whatever down lingers and, with the attitude on both sides of the aisle, that is entirely possible.

While many are making a big thing of the pause in spending in certain areas, one fact is overlooked. A government stall is nothing new. Since Congress put in place a new budget process, we’ve seen government’s doors closed 17 times. Former White House occupants Jimmy Carter and Ronald each saw six pauses.

The last, and perhaps most memorable, came in 1996 during the Clinton administration. It was during that shutdown that President Bill couldn’t find a way to shut down Zippergate and made an unknown intern named Monica Lewinsky a household name.

While both major political parties are busily pointing fingers at one another, a Pew Research poll conducted prior to the deadline showed Americans were ready to blame Republicans for the no-go. About 39 percent say Boehnerites are the reason we can’t seem to get along, 36 percent blame the Nancy/Barack dance team and 17 percent believe both sides are equally at fault.

But research from CVI shows neither Republicans nor Democrats should shoulder all the blame. The American voter and non-voter put the pieces of this congressional puzzle in place and deserve a great deal of the credit.

Somewhere along the line, surely, a leader will rear his/her head and take control of what has become a rudderless, captainless ship of state. A good place to start may be the requirement that all our hired hands at all levels be required to read the quotes of Lincoln, especially the one which begins “It is better to be silent and thought a fool…”

And, while the doors of some agencies are closed, many of the 535 who represent us would serve us well if they kept their mouths shut and stopped pandering to every camera in sight. We need solution, not verbal pollution.

 

Pat Culverhouse is a journalist and political columnist who lives in Minden.