At midnight on January 20th, the United States federal government shut down thanks to a lack of partisan support for a stop gap spending bill to keep the government funded for the short term. Had it passed, Congress would have been able to keep the government open and continue to hammer out details on an overdue long term federal budget.
The fiscal year technically begins October 1 and in an ideal world, Congress would have a budget for the coming year prepared by this date. This has not been the case as stopgap budgets and short term spending resolutions have allowed Congress to kick the can down the road as they continue to squabble over details.
The Democrats have enough votes to hold some leverage over the Republicans in their efforts to pass a budget, and have used this leverage to try to include a re-authorization of DACA, after the Trump administration ended it last year. To combat this and attempt to force another stopgap spending bill through, Republicans included a re-authorization of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) for six years. By doing so, they tried to back Democrats into a corner where their only options were either to support DACA and ignore CHIP, or vice versa. Democrats have called Republicans out on this, and the battle to defame the opposing party by blaming them for the government shutdown has ensued vigorously from there.
I do not believe that the blame lies entirely within the swamp on Capitol Hill. I believe that this shutdown is partially the consequence of the mindset the people of our nation have developed.
That mindset is the desire for our government to legislate safety and morality. It’s the mindset that propels so many people to advocate for giving politicians more power over our lives in the form of health insurance, taxes, safety regulations, business licenses, and all other matters which are not granted to the federal government in the Constitution. There is almost no area of our lives that the government does not have its hand in. The crazy part is, we put it there.
Now that in itself is not necessarily the problem (though I believe it’s the catalyst). The real problem is that when the game of power is being played in Washington, the game pieces are bills like DACA and CHIP, with the winners and losers being the American people. Power players in the Senate right now, like Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, are carelessly tossing these bills in and out of budget resolutions without care for the implications of their actions. You will hear them say things like, “millions of children will lose health care” or “it is not the fault of the illegal immigrant’s children that they are here,” but don’t be fooled. Statements like these are no more than an attempt to make themselves sound compassionate and empathetic, while at the same time painting the opposition as evil and heartless. There is no spare thought for the real life implications to the citizens, but only how the media will react and how their reputations will be affected. As Dennis Prager says, “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
This is a classic chicken or the egg situation. Which came first: Was it the corrupt politicians playing power games with the citizens as their pawns? Or was it the attitude and enabling of the citizens that created an environment for those types of politicians to flourish?
I argue that it’s the latter. There have always been and always will be bad people, those who want nothing but power and will do anything to achieve it. The way that the American government was designed prevents those types of people from accumulating power, thanks to built in checks and balances and a very limited set of enumerated powers. The entire idea was to limit the control of the governors over the governed, to preserve the liberty of the people, and to eliminate the possibility of the creation of a tyrannical regime. It was only through the expansion of powers and relinquishing some of our liberty to the government that these people have the ability to obtain such power.
When you create a swamp, can you blame rats for thriving in it?
Americans want government to regulate safety and the morality of their neighbors through regulation and licensing. Congress has ultimate power over these regulations and licenses, giving them ultimate control over the people. The swamp has been created; this government shutdown is the natural consequence when conflicting interests arise. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Had the swamp not been filled in the first place; had preserving liberty remained the foremost goal of our government; had the list of enumerated powers remained the same as originally drafted on that dusty parchment in 1776, we would not have this problem. The government would not have its hand in every aspect of our lives, and thus would not have the opportunity to play power games with it. A government shutdown would not influence millions of American lives.
We have enabled the growth of our behemoth of a federal government. With our disconnect from our principles and the authoritarian evolution of the mindset of our citizens, there is no one to blame for this shutdown but ourselves. Our politicians are the reflection of the citizens they govern. If the people want liberty, so to will those who are elected to represent them.
So I say to you, the government shutdown is our fault. We have lost the ideals that our country was built upon and enabled the explosion of authoritarian governmental power. Whether disguised as a donkey or an elephant, both forms are a problem and until we can fix our mindset, we will continue to give politicians power that they don’t deserve and be surprised when they abuse it.
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