The government is open again. That's too bad.
One day, one of these shutdowns should be permanent. We would still have far more government than the Founding Fathers envisioned.
That's because even during so-called shutdowns, a third of federal employees—nearly a million people—remain on the job, declared "essential" government workers. Military pay continues, too, although political commentators, eager to make a shutdown sound scarier, repeatedly claimed that military families were being cut off.
Here's a list of functions that kept going during the "shutdown":
- Law enforcement.
- Border Patrol.
- The TSA.
- Air traffic controllers.
- The CDC.
- Power grid maintenance.
- Social Security checks.
- Medicare checks.
- Food stamps.
- Veterans hospitals.
- The U.S. Post Office.
- U.S. Treasury debt auctions.
- Federal courts.
- The EPA.
Do we need more government than that? Do we even need that much?
If you love the FDA, the Agriculture Department or government websites, you might be frustrated, but the private sector (Underwriters Laboratories? Consumer Reports?) would do drug testing faster; much of what the Agriculture Department does is harmful; and private websites update information faster than government websites.
And don't forget there are still 50 state governments, plus thousands of local governments. We're buried in governments.
Fortunately, since most of life goes on in the private, voluntary sector, Americans didn't show much sign of freaking out last weekend, despite the hysteria spewed by politicians and the press.
Monday's New York Times front page carried the headline "Shutdown Crisis Deepens." Crisis? What crisis? Most Americans didn't even notice.
The federal government was shut down for 16 days under Barack Obama, 26 days under Bill Clinton, three days under George H.W. Bush. Almost no one remembers.
We don't need government to live.
Because the 1995 shutdown was blamed on Republicans, the press searched for people who were killed or injured by lack of government. They couldn't find any.
The best they did was finding a few people who were inconvenienced or annoyed. TV news crews reported on people who needed passports on short notice but couldn't get them because passport offices, though still open, were slow.
This is not a crisis. The next shutdown, which may come in three weeks, won't be a crisis either.
The real solution to most of our problems is to let the private sector do more. Instead of reopening government programs, use a shutdown as a time to privatize them.
Sell some monuments to private groups so we don't need federal workers to maintain them.
This shutdown, national parks stayed open. Good. During an Obama administration shutdown, politicians were so eager to convey "crisis" that they put barricades in front of parks. Absurd. It cost more to block access than allow it.
Photo Credit: Yin Bogu Xinhua News Agency/Newscom