OZAUKEE PRESS EDITORIAL: Shut down our government? Never again!

Americans are disgusted with the political hostility that taints the executive and legislative branches of their federal government and fed up with the malfunction that results.

Is that really so?

It’s the conventional wisdom, but you couldn’t find it in the public’s response to one of the most galling affronts to the citizenry in the nation’s history—the 2019 shutdown of the federal government.

It dragged on for 35 days, yet it seemed to be regarded with a grumpy acceptance as just dumb political business as usual.

Instead, it should have sparked an uprising, boisterous demonstrations, marching in the streets, maybe a whiff of civil disobedience.

The withholding of essential government services to gain political leverage is nothing less than a betrayal by office holders elected by the people and paid by the people to lead the government of the people.

Some of the citizens most directly injured by the shutdown, the federal workers who were not being paid, held protests, but there was little sign the White House noticed.

The inconvenience suffered by travelers using President Trump’s hometown airport, New York’s LaGuardia, where flights were cancelled or delayed because of safety concerns caused by depleted air traffic control and TSA staffs, got more attention and may have been the straw that broke the shutdown’s back.

The reopening of government is cause for relief, but it should not be taken as a sign that all is well.

The president is already hinting at another shutdown in the quest to redeem his border-wall campaign boast, and there is nothing in place to prevent a reoccurrence of this reprehensible form of political blackmail.

The need for the public to be heard is just as acute now as it was when the government was closed.

So let us hear a citizens’ cry: “Never again.” Never again dare to shut down our government.

Congress should enact legislation that ensures the government functions at existing spending levels when political impasses such as the border wall dispute occur.

That can be done, and support for it has already been voiced in the Senate and House. Unfortunately, there is also resistance.

Some in the government, including prominent members of the Trump administration, see shutdowns as useful tools that further their agenda to limit the size and role of government.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and budget director Russell Vought, according to news reports, encouraged a long shutdown to demonstrate that government can function with fewer employees.

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, has called government shutdowns “a minuscule price to be paid.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seems to agree. He expressed surprise that federal workers living without paychecks were having a hard time paying their bills and advised that instead of accepting the help of food pantries they should take out loans to buy groceries.

“There really is not a good excuse why there should be a liquidity crisis,” he said, referring to the government employees who were laid off or made to work without pay.

Only someone as tone deaf, out of touch and out to lunch, not to mention arrogant, as Ross, who brags of being a billionaire, would use a billionaire-speak term like “liquidity crisis” to describe working-class people who were left without enough cash to buy the necessities of life.

It turned out the government-shrinkers were hoist on their own petard by the shutdown they wanted, for its message was unmistakable: We need government.

It’s safe to say the shutdown affected every single resident of the U.S. by limiting the effectiveness of one or more of the myriad ways the federal bureaucracy serves the people of the land. To name a few that were diminished if not crippled by the shutdown: food safety inspection, IRS tax collections and refunds, government loans to farmers and small businesses, the weather service, Coast Guard services, airline safety and airport operations, national parks, the FBI, the ATF and, ironically, border patrol and customs agents.  

Asked on Sunday whether the president is prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks when the legislation that reopened the government expires, Mulvaney, who as the chief of Trump’s staff should know, said, “Yeah, I think he actually is.”

Well, actually, the American people should have something to say about that.

Loud and clear, it should be: Never again!

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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