Thoughts about the federal government shutdown

Since October 1, we’ve been in a federal government shutdown. I feel angry, annoyed, and powerless. I am torn between admiring those who stand by their convictions and wanting to smack those who refuse to compromise.

As I’ve read and watched the news about the effects of the government shutdown, I’ve been thinking about how we got to this point – and what we can change to make it more unlikely in the future. Here are some thoughts about the federal government shutdown.

1. Actions (and inaction) should have consequences for Congress. In a private sector company, an employee who doesn’t do their job would get suspended, put on notice, or even fired (with an escort out the door). Congressmembers’ poor job performance should also have consequences. Their salary, benefits (health insurance), and perks (travel, meal, lodging, and entertainment expenses) should be suspended during a government shutdown.

2. Let’s agree to line-item budget approval. The Senate and the House are unwilling to compromise, but why must the federal budget be all-or-nothing? Instead, Congressmembers should go through the budget, line-by-line, and approve each budget item so that the federal government can continue to function. Then Congress can focus on the budget items on which they cannot agree.

3. Congress needs a succession plan. Presidents have vice presidents; governors have lieutenant governors; principals have vice principals; police chiefs have deputy police chiefs. But the succession plan for Congressmembers is… an appointment by the governor. Or re-election, months or even years later. Maybe we should change the law to elect an adjunct senator and adjunct representative. The adjuncts would act as a chief of staff (so that we wouldn’t have to pay additional salaries) and be able to complete the congressmember’s term if they are incapacitated – or impeached. I would think that failing

Possibly the only silver lining in the government shutdown is that we’re temporarily safe from the IRS. With apologies to hard-working and understanding IRS agents, we can breathe a sign of relief because IRS audits are being suspended. I think that most of us have a tremendous fear of being audited.

How has the federal government shutdown affected you? What can we do differently the next time there is a budget crisis?

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4 Comments on “Thoughts about the federal government shutdown”

  1. Ross Judson Says:

    I don’t think “most” people are scared of an IRS audit, because most people’s tax returns have little in the way of itemized deductions.

    Arguments about a line-item veto for the President have been around for a long time. A line-item veto for Congress doesn’t make sense — that’s what they’re doing when the pass a law. If congress doesn’t want an item, they shouldn’t put it into the law. If they want to change it, they can pass an amendment.

    A close analogy to this situation is Congress having a credit card. They go out and spend money (pass laws that do things and cost money). Then the bill has to be paid (the debt limit has to be raised).

    This shutdown crisis was precipitated by a “majority of the majority” who decided to refuse to “pay the bill” unless already passed legislation (Affordable Care Act) was altered. Congress can do that any time it likes, by simply passing new legislation.

    So why the shutdown? It was an effort to *leverage* the power of the “majority of the majority”, slightly more than 25% of the house, into a position where they could effectively control *everything*, retroactively. If this President (or any other) had given in, the new reality in Congress would have been a 75% supermajority requirement in the House to get *anything* done.

    Instead of a line item veto, what we need is the ability for the president to simply force a vote on legislation, in some time frame. The president should be able to say “you must vote on this within four weeks”, or some reasonable time frame.

    • Hi Ross, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate the time you took to write your ideas.
      About the IRS: maybe I should have said “many taxpayers and businesses”? I was thinking of the huge tax code, which worried me even when I was just out of school and using the 1040-EZ.
      About your credit card analogy: I agree that we should pay our balance in full, but we chose to make each individual charge — and we can dispute unauthorized charges.
      About a presidential power to force a vote: I hadn’t considered this idea — would it be constitutional?

  2. Zane Fargo Says:

    The shutdown was yet another of government imposed costs that directly affected me and my family. Though not an Appropriated Funds employee, I am a member of the Department of Defense (DOD) workforce, and was forced to take annual leave (vacation days) during the shutdown. Many of my co-workers did not have sufficient leave balances and directly lost money. We’ve been in a federal “wage freeze” for over 3 years, and every year, our expenses go up (such as health care.) I shudder to think the effect the Obamacare will have on our health care expenses. What I can glean so far from the dysfunctional online system is that my personal healthcare costs will go up another 40% or more this year, which amounts to at least another $300 per month or so out of my paychecks. I guess I’ll have to start “fasting” two days a week to save some of the money. Don’t know where the rest will come from, unless I claim bankruptcy… If this were an isolated issue, it might not be so bad, but nearly everyone I know at work is in a similar situation. Right at the edge of losing it all if this sort of thing happens again.

    • Hi Zane, Thank you for sharing your experience and frustration with the government shutdown. I’m concerned too about how much the “affordable” health care act will increase my health insurance.

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