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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shut Down!

Government Shuts Down!!
Shouting from the front page of the paper, screaming from the speakers of the radio, bleating from the talking heads on television. If one lived in a cave, they may be immune to the relentless babble.
We have been bombarded with information regarding “non-essential” Federal employees being “furloughed”, a polite way of saying “laid off.”
See, here in the Industrial Heartland of the Midwest, we can handle the harsh reality of the term “lay-off”. We are a tough, non-nonsense breed up here. Just tell it like it is. We don't need the sugar coating of “furloughed”, “reduction in force” or other more gentle terms.

. Get to the point: “Dude, we have no authority to spend money. You are laid off until we can. Sorry.”
What struck me as an oxymoron is the designation: “ non-essential”.
For example; a keeper at the National Zoo, who feeds and cares for living creatures; is that person “non essential”? If one were to ask the pandas or the giraffes if having food, water, veterinary treatment, clean living quarters is non-essential, you may get a difference of opinion.
What about the Physical Therapist in a VA hospital providing treatment to the returning veteran missing a leg? To that service person, therapy may be quite essential.
The USDA will curtail food inspections, as this is non-essential. Somehow, I cannot equate ensuring a safe food supply with being unnecessary.
While Social Security checks will go out, new applications will not be processed. This can be problematic to seniors or disabled folks who truly have a need.
Our son is a nuclear engineer, charged with monitoring environmental radiation. To the personnel assigned to the base he works at, to the residents of the surrounding community, to the wildlife near by; they may consider his efforts as “essential”.
On and on the list goes... National Parks, the Smithsonian, FDA, and others.
From my perspective, given the never-ending finger-pointing, blame-laying, and fault- finding (hmm sounds like Eastlake politics), the only true “non-essential” Federal workers are located within the Capitol building and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Still... being the historian that I am, the idea of Federal Shutdowns triggered a thought in my folliclely challenged head: Just how many times has the Government shut down?
Do you realize... since 1976... The Federal Government has shut down EIGHTEEN times?
Yes, it is true.

Once in 1976, three times in '77, once in '78, once in '79, once in '81, twice in '82, once in '83, twice in '84, once in '86 and '87. Again, one time in '90, two times in '95, and now, once in '13.
Neither political party has a monopoly on Government Shutdowns; Three Democrat Presidents and three Republican Presidents have all had shutdowns on their watch. However, the Rs lead in the number of shutdowns: 10 vs. 8. This number is skewed by the fact Reagan had two shutdowns in '82 and again in '84.
The all time leader for number of shutdowns in one Fiscal Year is Jimmy Carter; 3 in 1977.

We had an unbroken streak of Presidents with at least one shutdown from Gerald Ford (1976) until Bill Clinton had two in one year(1995).
The ONLY President to NOT have a shutdown during their time in office was George W. Bush.

As I looked back over the preceding 37 years, I came to an interesting conclusion.
Eighteen times, our government did not have authorization to pay it's bills.
Eighteen times, our world was on the brink of crumbling, to be relegated to the refuse pile of history.
Eighteen times, the pundits, talking heads, and associated experts claimed the most dire of outcomes.
Eighteen times, America was in peril.
However, the sun still rose the next day. The Stars and Stripes still waved over our land. The wolf at the door was much further away than first believed to be. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence did not cease to exist. The United States survived.
The central premise of our Nation: a government by the People, for the People, and of the People, proved sound.
I pray to God it continues to do so.

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