Despite the fears expressed in news stories, federal worker furloughs do not seem to have caused major economic disruptions. While the National Parks were closed, most government workers that provide useful services to citizens are at the state and local level, not the federal level.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography indicates that the internal struggles in her Conservative Party in the 1980s were as intense as today’s struggles within the Republican Party.
America faces two very serious budget problems: Democrats, and Republicans. Partisan wrangling over the brief shutdown of about 17 percent of the federal government has been unnecessarily long and convoluted because both sides keep repeating their misleading talking points and diverting attention away from the central issue — deficits and debt — and toward extraneous or irrelevant topics.
I’ve taken a lot of flak from establishment media types and angry federal employees for my contention that the hullabaloo over the so-called government “shutdown” is excessive. The fact is most government activities have not stopped and most government employees continue to work. However, one activity that has stopped – and, man, this is personal – is the approval of new beer labels and recipes.
You may remember the scene in Animal House where Kevin Bacon plays a fraternity pledge being hazed. Down on all fours getting paddled, Bacon says, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes profiled Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) on-going investigation of fraud and abuse in the federal government’s two main disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (see Chris Edwards’ discussion here). Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (Coburn is the ranking member) held a hearing on a particularly egregious example centered on the Social Security Administration’s Huntington, WV office.
The abuse and overspending in government disability programs is so bad that even National Public Radio and 60 Minutes have taken notice. On the heels of this excellent NPR examination of the “disability industrial complex,” the venerable CBS news show last night profiled Senator Tom Coburn’s efforts to uncover fraud in the two big federal disability programs.
Alexander Hamilton won in the end. As Treasury Secretary in the 1790s he championed an array of “internal” taxes to supplement federal revenues from import tariffs. Thomas Jefferson despised Hamilton’s internal taxes as assault on liberty, and when elected in 1800 he made sure that they were abolished.
It’s looking like it will take a week or more for Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement to “reopen” the federal government. Regardless, with each passing hour a resolution necessarily becomes closer at hand because a so-called “government shutdown” effectively means that a budgetary impasse in our two-party dominated system has reached the end stage.
A benefit of the government shutdown may be that it slows the stream of waste and bad behavior flowing from the federal bureaucracy. Catching up on my reading, I noticed these items in just the last few days of the Washington Post: