The Shutdown Sensation

Hell hath no fury like a Congress that’s up too late.

Failing to agree on a budget, Congress early this morning sent the federal government into shutdown – an ominous-sounding scenario that curtailed all sorts of beloved government functions, such as the National Zoo Panda Cam and IRS audits. Remaining operational will be only the bare essentials, including such insignificant programs as our national defense, Social Security, Medicare, and of course, the NSA.

Coverage of the looming shutdown and its assorted sideshows has blocked out the media sun for the past week or so. CNN and the New York Times have plastered doom-and-gloom headlines across the websites, and social media has hashtagged its merry way into panic, disgust and Republican-bashing.

In short, the media has turned the shutdown into the crime of the century.

While I agree that the shutdown is deeply embarrassing and emblematic of a dysfunctional Congress, concerns about its impact are largely overblown. For one, this has happened before – the government has shut down 17 times since the Ford Administration. Righteous liberals might want to note that several of those shutdowns occurred when the Democratic House refused to support President Reagan’s budget priorities. Role reversal much?

Yet none of those lapses resulted in any noticeable injury to the economy. The last pair of shutdowns, which lasted for a combined 26 days in 1995 and 1996 (by far the longest of any recent shutdown), cost the nation around $1.4 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. In other words, not even a drop in the bucket of a multi-trillion dollar economy.

I wouldn’t want this shutdown to last for more than a week or so – I want to get back to watching the Panda Cam like any other prideful D.C. resident – but my hope is that it can be illuminating for Congress as it works to reduce the budget. Essential programs are still operating; let’s see just how many of those “non-essential” programs we really need.

After all, if the government can’t even figure out how to keep itself running, maybe it’s time to make it smaller.


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