The government “shutdown” that stirred Washington Tuesday morning has invited a flurry of accusations and criticisms as to who exactly—Republicans or Democrats—is to blame for the slimming of government activities following a failure to come to an agreement on the next year’s fiscal budget, which Republicans made contingent on changes to the ObamaCare law that takes effect today.
In truth, the question of blame is arbitrary. The “shutdown” is the result of a failure of two opposing sides to come to an agreement on a budget deal. Such a stalemate always requires two intransigent sides to achieve. However, in a predictable turn of events, Democrats have proven more effective at conveying through the media their own narrative of Republicans as sore losers in the 2012 presidential election and stubborn, unreasonable stalwarts. Republicans have countered by expressing their willingness to fund the government without funding ObamaCare, revealing Democrats as valuing the healthcare law above continued, full-scale government functioning.
In the midst of this back-and-forth, however, what has not been challenged is the notion that someone is, in fact, to blame for the shutdown. To ascribe blame accepts that the current scale of operations in our government is in any way proper. To the contrary, the massive entitlement state, regulatory culture, and unchallenged creep of government into nearly every area of our economy and lives is not only impractical and inefficient, but unjust and immoral.
What’s more: despite the inflamed rhetoric and partisan back-and-forth currently at work, the alleged “shutdown” is a paltry decline in government activity—proverbial sands on the Himalayas. Only designated “non-essential personnel” were excused from work in government offices today. The US Postal Service, Social Security, and military pay will all proceed unfettered. Tragi-comic areas of scientific research will still be pursued on your tax dollar.
In the face of such unchecked growth and unmonitored spending, Americans should consider that a government shutdown might be just what this country needs to motivate citizens and lawmakers to pay more attention to where tax dollars are going. When they do, with reason as their guide, they will no doubt see the litany of government grants handed out like party favors from self-aggrandizing legislators to suckling special interest groups, the bloated staff of so many executive bureaucracies, and the system of subsidies and corporate welfare that drain so many Americans each year for the benefit of the influential few.
In light of this more positive understanding of the “shutdown”, Republicans should claim credit—not accept blame—for the shutdown. If wasteful, superfluous spending on immoral and unnecessary bureaucracies, grants, and regulations is lessened or halted for even a day, it is to the credit of those who stand in the way of their going forward. There is too much of a tendency in our political culture to equate progress with the maintenance of the status quo, and to view effective legislation as simply passing as many bills as possible without reverence for the idea once expressed by Calvin Coolidge, that “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” As with bills, so with budgets.
In the instance of government growth today, the status quo is one of progressive decay—the cancerous effect of a government grown too large and stifling growth in the fundamentals of the American economy while violating the individual rights of its citizens. Those who stand in the way of such a system—who refuse to compromise or accept any and all terms just to turn to their electorate and claim that they did something—should not be criticized, but applauded. Republicans and Democrats share accountability for the hold-up our government is facing now, but to the extent that some Republicans are standing on principle and fighting to limit the excesses of government, they deserve our praise.