The fear generated by media use of the words “government shutdown” is amazing. The hysteria peddlers using this terminology, and the media that purposely play to it, must know these two words emit such an extreme emotional response. It appears designed to frighten the least informed against the other political party, thus the terminology.
It always involves the House of Representatives, as it alone constitutionally must approve all government spending. This normally happens every October 1st for the upcoming year. No monies are to be spent by the federal government without the consent of the peoples’ representatives. This places the people in charge of taxation. The Senate cannot initiate a tax bill but can adjust any initiated by the House.
In the present instance, calloused filmed admissions of Planned Parenthood personnel extracting body parts of aborted babies to sell, has caused many members of Congress, mostly Republican, to seek the retraction of federal funding for the organization. President Barack Obama and most Democrats want the organization funded despite the films and the President promises to veto any budget that excludes the funding.
His refusal to enact the spending approved by the House of Representatives begins what the hysteria peddlers have called a government shutdown because he refuses to accept what the people’s representatives have agreed to fund, or not fund. If Congress caves to the President, as it has so often done the last seven years, it is a form of blackmail. If they do not, the press that favors the President yells government shutdown and blames the Republican Party. As the left dominates a great majority of the media, with the exception of talk radio, it becomes public perception that the Republican Party is responsible for government shutdowns, not the President.
Moreover, the phrase essentially becomes a weapon to be used on other potential government “shutdowners.” This enables the President to have undue influence, (way more than envisioned by the framers of the Constitution), in spending and undermines the sole power of the House to initiate all bills for raising revenue.
So what does a government shut down look like? Do the president and vice president resign now that the government ends? No, they stay on the job and receive full pay as before. Does Congress fly out of Washington D. C. the following day and cease to draw their pay, and the Supreme Court cease to deliberate on constitutional questions? Does the army come home and cease to protect us? No! No, NO! Do states, counties, and cities no longer function? No again, they have their own tax base and policemen, prisons, and teachers remain in place. Will I still get my mail? Yes. The U.S. Postal Service functions as an independent business unit. Will I still get Social Security benefits, food stamps, unemployment compensation and veterans’ benefits? Yes!
Then why the hysteria? My point exactly!! Because these two words, “government shutdown,” and the possibility of missed food stamps send the largely uninformed into frenzy — they finally awake from their stupor. They largely know nothing of the wrangling of government to protect them from themselves and oppose any proposed government diet that might reduce their daily feed. They worshipfully listen to the party and political leaders that are least likely to disturb this base.
There will never be a government shut down because none of these things will ever happen, 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.
How do we know this? Because we have had 18 government shutdowns since 1977 according to the Congressional Research Service, the Reagan Administration having 8 of them alone. Because in 1979 the government was shut down for 10 days while Congress argued over a proposed salary increase for the legislative branch. Because we had a five-day shutdown between November 14 and November 19, 1995, and a second one of 21 days, between December 16, and January 6, 1996, and none of the bad things mentioned above happened. No! Not even one. In fact, the public as a whole didn’t even notice it.
Then what did happen? “The Federal government of the United States put non-essential government workers on furlough and suspended non-essential services…(Wikipedia).” Essentially all went on as before except some paychecks were a few days late. Apparently the federal government does (when forced to do so) know what non-essential services are after all, and is capable of closing them if it has the will.
So at worst a government shutdown is really only a partial shutdown of non-essential services and a delay of payment for some few federal workers. So the federal government goes on a long overdue diet and gets back to the basics. Let’s call it such in the future so that we don’t frighten the less informed and they overreact?
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 has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College.