A Government Shutdown Should Be Illegal

Government shutdown US Capitol, Washington DC. Enough is enough. We, the People have put up with these political antics long enough. Shutting down the American government, either completely or partially

  • Doesn’t solve a problem
  • Doesn’t save money
  • Doesn’t improve any situation
  • Doesn’t make anything better

There, can it be any clearer than that? A government shutdown goes far beyond political battles, policy differences, ideological schisms, or budget reduction issues.

Personal Damage:

Shutdowns hurt the American people more than they hurt Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, or any other party. While polls show that shutting down the government does damage opinions about the party causing it, that’s the only impact it has. No one in any administration or serving in the Congress goes without a paycheck. No member of Congress worries about paying the mortgage, affording medication, putting food on the table or getting evicted. Administrations cause a huge problem for ordinary taxpayers but the politicians themselves suffer not one whit.

While payless paychecks drive government workers to food banks, soup kitchens, ad ride-sharing jobs, the President and the Congress go on with life as usual. They discuss the problem over steak dinners at fine restaurants, in chauffeur-drive limousines, in exclusive clubs, in private airplanes, and in their mansions.

Economic Damage:

A government shutdown damages the American economy because it takes money out of businesses. Furloughed federal workers:

  • Don’t buy a lot of groceries, eat out in restaurants, or get takeout meals,
  • They don’t buy new computers or the latest smartphone.
  • They don’t go to the movies or the theater or buy tickets to concerts and sporting events.
  • They don’t take vacations or visit family using planes, trains or automobiles.

Washington Monument, trash, government shutdown, fenceThat means the pain spreads out through the economy. Shops, supermarkets, restaurants, beauty salons, retail stores, malls, and other consumer businesses watch their sales decline day after day. Gasoline sales drop and airplanes have empty seats for the first time in decades.

Consumer spending takes a nosedive and the drop-off gets more serious as the shutdown goes on. Even families with a second income that doesn’t depend on the government pull back their spending so they can ride it out without too much damage.

In late 2017, analysts projected a government shutdown would cost the U.S. economy $6.5 billion per week. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Every $1 of reduced federal spending can lower Gross Domestic Product by between $0.40 and $1.90

Budget Damage:

Shutdowns don’t save money, they cost money. And we, the American taxpayer, have to cough up the damage. It has currently gone on for over a month and cost us more than the wall at the center of this debacle. It also doesn’t shrink government—unless a lot of workers don’t return to work because they have found new jobs that actually pay them for the work they do.

Former Maryland Congressman John K Delaney claims that “It costs between $12-20 Million more an HOUR to run gov’t during shutdown – it’s MORE expensive to run a closed government.” Those workers will eventually get paid what they are owed but that means we are paying them for work that went undone, information that wasn’t generated, documents that weren’t processed, loans that didn’t happen, passports and visas that weren’t issued, etc.

IHT Global Insight, a consulting firm, estimated that it costs the government $12.5 million an hour to furlough 800,000 workers. That is the price tag we pay for people to not do their jobs. You get the picture.

Reputational Damage:

Old American Flag, government shutdownsThe longer a government shutdown goes on, the less confident the American public is that government can get things done or keep its promises. According to Pew Research, only 18% of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (15%).

This is an historic low. Citizens who lose faith in the government are less likely to support it, to apply for government jobs, and to volunteer for the military. Some government workers might just decide to move into the private sector rather than risk weathering another period where they have to work without pay. The best and the brightest go elsewhere.

International Damage:

The government shutdown erodes the image of American internationally, as well. The United States of America is the only country that shuts down its government over political or ideological disputes—or at all for any reason. It makes us look like a Banana Republic run by thugs, dictators, and buffoons. At the very least, it means that the people we have elected to run the country don’t actually want to run it—or don’t think it should run at all.

Meanwhile, the current administration are so out of touch they believe that furloughed government workers can enjoy their “vacation,” buy food on credit, or just take out a “government-backed loan” that they can repay when they get paid again. Minus interest, of course. With a combined net worth of $4.5 billion, current cabinet officials have little understanding of how most American live their lives or the financial pressures they deal with every day.

A Government Shutdown Should Be Illegal

For all those reasons—and more I don’t have room for here—a government shutdown should be illegal. No one person, not even the President of the United States, should be able to take the government that runs this country to its knees. American citizens are not pawns in a political game, bargaining chips, or slaves. Presidents are supposed to run the country, not damage it for any reason. And certainly not for a campaign promise, a political stunt, or a self-aggrandizing move.

We the People, US Constitution, US mapAt the very least, the people who generate, support, or extend a government shutdown should be forced by law to do without their own pay for as long as the shutdown goes on. Not everyone in Congress is worth millions and some of them might just think twice before volunteering to go without their own paychecks.

And every month a shutdown goes on, Members of Congress should lose a month of their rich pensions. Make them pay the pain forward as well.

We the People deserve better than this. American taxpayers deserve better than this. Perhaps in 2020 we can elect a new administration and new members of Congress who put country over party, duty over politics and the wellbeing of the American people over ideology. We have 21 months to think about that.

If you agree, please forward to like-minded friends. Let’s get something going.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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