Last week, the country’s longest government shutdown in history came to an end with a thunderous sigh. For 34 days many were furloughed, others had to work without pay, and contractors were simply out of work. The wake of this catastrophic failure will take weeks to fill and the ripple effect may be felt even longer. We saw food inspections grind to a halt, airports were shut down, the Farm Service Agency run by the Department of Agriculture shuttered 2100 offices, FEMA stopped processing flood insurance claims. All of this was on top of the more publicized gaps in security (ironically, including border protection) and law enforcement.
What was the lesson that people learned quickly? As air travel risk became incalculable and food safety became highly questionable? As the federal courts started talking about closing and images of federal employees and contractors standing in line at food banks and charities were broadcasted into their living rooms? The lesson learned is the exact opposite of what the Republican Party has been telling their voters for decades— we need a functioning government.
The last poll taken showed clearly: only 31% of Americans believed that the President should continue on his shutdown to ensure money for a border wall was appropriated, that means that two out of every three Americans polled wanted the government opened, even if that meant no wall. In a separate poll, six of every 10 Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown, sending his approval rating into all new low levels.
Conservatives and the Republican Party have been preaching since the days of Ronald Reagan, that the government only gets in the way. The less government we have, the ‘more free’ we will all be. They have been promising that the government is inept and hapless, and of course when given the reigns of the country, they ensure it to be true.
The shutdown taught many of us how much we actually need the government, but we need it to function properly. We need it to be properly funded, and we need it to be properly led. Is there such a thing as government overreach? Sure there is! Can a cumbersome bureaucracy and over-regulation slow down progress, and interfere with the free market? Absolutely! Do we need to constantly check the government to ensure that it is not overly exerting its authority? You betcha!
But as we have seen, government has its place, and if the services being provided are suspended, we all will suffer. You will hear pundits saying the exact opposite, saying that this shutdown proves how dependent on the federal government we have become; and to be honest, there is some truth in that sentiment. The answer, however is not to “reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub”. To be replaced by capitalistic, free-market enterprises which are driven by profit, not the needs of the public.
What Americans want ,and need, is a government that functions well, that does what it is supposed to do and has the resources needed to do it. There are essential functions of the federal government which, the federal government is best positioned to perform, not to be subject to the whims of a board of directors seeking only to expand their profit margin.