Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand the past week, you probably have heard that the federal government shut down on Monday night.
Regardless of whether you think this is a good or bad thing, and regardless of whether you decidedly love or hate Obamacare, everyone can agree that shutting down the government is probably not the most effective way to govern the world’s most important country.
But before you shed a tear for the furloughed latte-sipping, iPad-toting bureaucrats of the Washington metro area who must now cut back on their daily Starbucks intake to make ends meet, it is important to recognize that many of the 800,000 workers affected by this senseless crisis are normal people that live in normal communities such as Fergus Falls.
Many of these people lead the exact opposite lifestyle of your stereotypical, high-flying Washington bureaucrat. They live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to make ends meet as much as their private sector counterparts.
The police that responded to the incident of the engaged shooter at the U.S. Capitol yesterday are not being paid.
There was speculation that several college football games scheduled to be played by the Department of Defense-funded military academies – Army, Navy and Air Force, would also be cancelled, including a game between the latter two this coming weekend.
But fear not, though the “appropriations lapses” have wreaked havoc on nearly every other area, the top brass at the respective military institutions clamored enough to pull together additional, heretofore secretive appropriations to allow the games to continue as scheduled.
This sounds fine and dandy for football fans, but it illustrates a fundamental problem with shutdown politics. If both parties are willing to take the government to this precipice, the shutdown should have to hurt everybody equally across the board. This is the only way to sufficiently deter it from being considered a plausible option in the future.
However, the ability to deem preferred employees and functions as “essential” versus “nonessential,” and therefore deciding who gets exempted from the shutdown goes against this spirit. It’s tough to argue why these teams should receive a special carve-out to play football when 800,000 workers are missing their paychecks.
It clearly boils down to an issue of political influence: key figures at these military academies certainly carry more clout than, say, a poor single mother who has enrolled her child in Head Start, whose workers have also been furloughed.
A similar situation occurred at the onset of sequestration this past spring. When the Federal Aviation Administration was forced to furlough air-traffic controllers – resulting in major delays, there was an enormous outcry from the elite class – notably members of Congress whose flights were stuck on tarmac for hours. To nobody’s surprise, a bill was quickly passed allowing the controllers to work at full capacity again.
In the same manner, beneficiaries of public housing programs slashed during sequestration received no such support in Congress.
The point here is that if the government is going to shut down because of political standoff, the pain must be felt equally. We cannot accept just shutting down the parts that do not personally inconvenience us.
If a continuing resolution to fund the government isn’t reached by this weekend, then Army, Navy and Air Force should not be allowed to play their games, period.