The longest government shutdown in the nation’s history is finally over–at least for three weeks.
Why did it take so long to re-open the government?
Was it the Democrats’ fault? Republicans’?
Facts are facts: even though Donald Trump, as President of the United States, was guilty of intransigence, refusing to concede any funding that did not include five billion dollars of taxpayer money for a wall along the southern US border with Mexico, it was actually Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) who deserves a great deal of the blame for the malingering shutdown, as he was the one with the power to bring to the Senate floor bills to break the impasse.
The House of Representative and the Senate voted for numerous bills to reopen the government, yet McConnell refused to present any of them.
So, it was Republicans’ fault.
But was the partial shutdown really over a wall, or was there a more insidious, calculated, deleterious reason that drove so many of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers to be left with damaged credit ratings, missed mortgage payments, unnecessary debts, and doubts about their future job security?
Three words: STARVE THE BEAST.
“Starving the beast” is a political strategy former president Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman coined.
Basically, the goal is to eliminate government spending (the “beast”) by defunding vital government agencies so they collapse under their own weight. Republican lawmakers can then return to their constituents and report that, just as predicted, those agencies were a waste of their money.
This is not surprising coming from the president whose first inaugural speech called government “the problem.”
Since it’s been around since Reagan, it’s hardly new. But make no mistake, Republicans have been hard at work at it for the past three and a half decades.
Now they have a President enacting the billionaires’ agenda.
The recent shutdown nearly brought the nation to its knees.
We saw airport checkpoints close, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) staffing levels hit a 30-year low, garbage pile up in and around our national parks, food inspections hindered, the IRS’s tax filing work significantly delayed, and federal courts’ funding limited.
This is causing many Republicans to wonder if agencies wouldn’t better serve us if they were removed from the government’s auspices and privatized.
“The Democrats have basically just started a new conversation on the political right about how to privatize the heck out of all of that.”
Romina Boccia, a federal budget expert at the conservative Heritage Center stated:
“The real conclusion to draw from this is: which of these are truly inherent, governmental functions, and which of these could we take out of the hands of what is ultimately a hyper-partisan process now.”
Some are citing hundreds of thousands of TSA workers’ willingness to work for free (those that did not call out sick) as evidence people will perform out of a sense of duty regardless of compensation.
One “Bay Area journo-writer” tweeted:
“This government shutdown would’ve lasted like a day in European countries because no one would go to work without getting paid. That’s the big lesson workers should learn from today. Work stoppages get shit done.”
Need more proof?
Just like what Ronald Reagan tried to do in 1981 when he threatened to fire 13,000 air traffic controllers who participated in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike for raises, shorter workweeks, and better working conditions, Republicans and Libertarians are hoping they can use this shutdown to justify their dream of eliminating the public sector.
It starts with the TSA and the FAA; then they’re onto Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, as was the life-long objective of former House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The state of public education hangs in the balance under an administration that works to undermine it in favor of corporate charter schools not required to adhere the same academic and professional standards like state teacher certification, gender and cultural diversity, and curricular oversight.
We will not be able to confront the imminent dangers of climate change without a vigorous Energy Department advocating for alternative energy.
We will not keep our lakes, rivers, and coastlines free of industrial waste without a robust EPA.
We can forget about workers’ rights with a Labor Secretary beholden strictly to profit at the detriment to workers’ safety, security, and sovereignty.
The Constitution‘s Preamble clearly defines government’s role as that which “establishes justice, insures domestic tranquility, provides for the common defense, promotes the general welfare, and secures the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
The public sector may be messy at times, but its goal is not to make a buck.
Robust public infrastructure and social safety nets were established to fulfill the Preamble’s stated purpose.
Since Reagan, Republicans have been on a quixotic anti-government crusade to privatize America’s common infrastructure to placate their billionaire donors and lobbyists at our expense.
Government is not “the problem.”
Unfettered laissez-faire capitalism is.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons