Matt Welch at CNN.com: "Alarmed at Government Shutdown? Exhale"


Definitely a statement game. |||

Over at CNN.com's Opinion section, I have a piece arguing that federal shutdowns are not particularly significant, and may even produce some beneficial ends through irresponsible means. Column starts like this:

The first thing to remember about federal government shutdowns is that they do not matter very much.

History does not now recall the three Democrat-led shutdowns during the Carter administration over using Medicaid dollars to fund abortions, even though their combined 28 days will almost certainly dwarf the Great Impasse of October 2013.

Even the most famous modern shutdown, the 21-day Newt Gingrich/Bill Clinton standoff of 1995-96, had effects that were felt most acutely by comparatively well-off federal workers, not their taxpayer bosses.

A recent Congressional Research Service summary of that event included among its headline impacts stuff like "National Institute of Standards and Technology was unable to issue a new standard for lights and lamps that was scheduled to be effective January 1, 1996, possibly resulting in delayed product delivery and lost sales." Probably the worst thing back then was that passports for Americans and visas for foreigners went unprocessed for three weeks, taking a temporary bite out of the tourism industry.

So when President Barack Obama says the shutdown will "throw a wrench into the gears of our economy" and put "the American people's hard-earned progress at risk," it is appropriate to treat such claims with skepticism. As we saw during the run-up to the March 1 sequestration trims in federal spending, politicians are incentivized by self-interest and unconstrained by shame in maximizing the hyperbole about what may happen if their ability to collect and redistribute our money is impeded even a little bit.

None of this, however, means that the shutdown is good politics.

Read the whole thing here.