If it is handled correctly a government shutdown can be exactly what America needs.
On Tuesday, October 1st I was perusing the sports page of the San Francisco Chronicle on my iPad. Old habits die hard where sports teams are concerned. My eye was caught by a link in the sidebar with a headline to the effect that the government shutdown had started because Congress had “failed to avert disaster.” Once again the sky is falling, the world will end, and we are all going to die – or maybe not.
The truth of the matter is that a government shutdown isn’t all that much of a big deal. While Nancy Pelosi says that there isn’t a single area where the government budget can be cut, she is wrong. The proof of the matter is that the people who will be laid off during the shutdown are considered “non-essential”; that is, unnecessary. If they are unnecessary, one has to wonder why they were hired in the first place.
The total number of people laid off approximates 800,000. It isn’t a small number, but it isn’t a disastrous number, either; especially because these people are government employees, many of whom do nothing to create value in an economy. It is very different from a for-profit business where everyone is supposed to create marketable value. Government employees are under no such requirement.
In fact, the effects on the average person will be minor or non-existent. The sequestration threats of some months ago should provide an ample illustration of what will happen. We got by with a smaller government in the past and we can again. It just requires a will to do so. The positive side of it all comes into play if the Republican leadership does its job and makes sure that the shutdown continues indefinitely, unless there is total capitulation from Obama. And I do mean TOTAL.
The base problem is a government that is ineffective and inefficient, and which doubles down on the ineffectiveness – Repeatedly. But if we assume a shutdown that lasts a minimum of six months what happens? First of all, media outlets and government pundits who scream disaster at every opportunity will gradually lose their effectiveness. Life, the universe and everything will continue unabated. Eventually this will become the “new normal” and people will wonder why the screams of disaster occurred at all.
Second, most, if not all, government employees will eventually have to find alternative employment. This means the private sector. There they will have to sink or swim; they will learn how the rest of us live. As they are absorbed into the private economy we learn to live without their presence as government functionaries and they learn to live as private employees. It becomes part of the new normal.
As society adjusts to the new normal of smaller and less intrusive government, the government’s credibility takes an even bigger hit than it has so far. All that John Boehner and Ted Cruz need to do is point out how life is continuing and that the vast majority of Americans are unaffected. Then, they relax, stand firm, and point at the authoritarians who are handing out exemptions (around 1200 at last count) to themselves and their politically connected cronies while oppressing individual Americans.
In the end, the longer the shutdown lasts the stronger opposition to big government will be and the more convincing small government arguments will become. It will likely enable Conservative / Libertarian interests to catapult to new levels of popularity and could create a new American Revolution based on a return to founding principles of limited government. That is the paradigm shift. But first, the House of Representatives must refuse to budge, and they must also refuse to increase the debt limit. John Boehner made this mistake several times before. He must not repeat it now.
By forcing America to confront the facts; by refusing to go along with the statist agenda; by proving that the fear-mongers are con-artists, Main Street America can win. But it will take leadership to do so. What America needs is a government that does only the essentials; a government that sees its job ONLY as providing an environment of ordered liberties in which the people are free to pursue their individual priorities reasonably free from interference from foreign enemies and domestic criminals. Government must realize that part of its job is to limit itself; it is not supposed to grow in size and destructiveness without limitation like The Blob did in that old movie.
President Lincoln referred, in his Gettysburg Address, to a government by the people. In our present situation we no longer see government by the people. Anyone who suggests that government is too big and needs to be put on a diet is called an anarchist. The Constitution designates a Republic as our form of government. The President is supposed to serve the best interest of the people. A shutdown, particularly a protracted and lengthy one will starve the government leviathan, and will be in the long term, best interest of the people. The House of Representatives is presently doing the people’s work, attempting to restore popular sovereignty to a reality, rather than a fiction that is given lip service, but has no reality. This reversal of policy direction has taken a century to occur; it should be applied further. We have a shutdown of unnecessary services accomplished. Now we need a refusal to raise the federal debt limit. That won’t be the end of the world, either.