The government shutdown was the worst of all possible scenarios. Past partial shutdowns have been just about as bad — and the shutdown solution has been used in some form by both parties. Out of this horrible situation we must glean a solution for the future.
It really hit me when my grandson applied to join the Coast Guard after he graduates from a Virginia college this December. He majored in homeland security and is exactly the type of young person we should be recruiting. Recent articles in the news have pointed out that the Coast Guard is the only military force we have that is not codified as exempt from the shutdown. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security and is not funded as the military. Now we have our main homeland security agency going without pay — although workers are being told there will be back pay now the shutdown is over. My grandson now thinks he might as well go into the private sector.
The point of this is that the greatest damages of the shutdown are not immediately apparent. A shutdown is utter madness. An unseen result is that we might lose a generation of the best young people who are thinking of going into what now appears to be a chaotic government.
At least we should use this shutdown as an example for a solution in the future. We could codify in our laws and regulations language under the Budget Act that would prevent shutdowns. For example, South Dakota and many other states have rules that their legislatures and governors must meet a deadline for budgetary action. South Dakota has a mandated balanced budget requirement. The members and the government could be held in contempt for not doing their duty if the balanced budget is not in place by the set date. This has led to one or two humorous incidents where the large clock in front of the Legislature has been set back an hour or two on budget night, but the Legislature and the governor have always met the deadline. Citizens should now demand that their congressional representatives make such a law for themselves.
Over my 22 years in the House and the U.S. Senate, it has been my observation that the Democrats have used a shutdown or threat of a shutdown more often than Republicans — but I say a pox on both parties. Both political sides are guilty — now and in the past.
George H.W. Bush was forced to agree to a tax increase under threat of a government shutdown, where he had to break his most fundamental campaign pledge: “Read my lips — no new taxes.” As was observed in several of the eulogies at Bush’s recent funeral and memorial services, he probably lost the next election as a result of his agreeing to that compromise. Citizens in voting should have a responsibility not to vote just automatically against someone for making a budgetary compromise to break a deadlock. I admire Bush for engaging in our system. We needed a tax increase at that time, and it did eventually lead to a balanced budget (although under a different president).
Bush’s decent actions made for great funeral oratory. But he lost a second term as president of the United States.
That is the way our system is supposed to work. Both parties will lose some elections as a result of budget compromises. However, we could make these decisions earlier and easier by codifying into law a set timetable for budgetary action. If Congress and the president had to stay in session in Washington until a result is achieved, we would see amazing results.18 comments on this story
Under such a system, the members of Congress, the president and his immediate staff would take the hits on lost pay rather than innocent people, such as the Coast Guard personnel, who have no control over the decision. And it would be the highest officials who would suffer consequences, rather than Transportation Security Administration workers.
The whole shutdown thing must never happen again.
Citizens have a big role to play. They must contact their congressional representatives to change the system and insist on seeing real votes soon to change the underlying law. And, more importantly, they must not punish leaders in the next election for making reasonable compromises.
In other words, citizens must wake up to their responsibilities. These ridiculous shutdown episodes must end in our great and struggling democracy.