Much of the federal government should be shut down — and power given back to the people
The conventional wisdom about the government shutdown chaos in Washington is completely wrong. Whoever you listen to, their explanation for the shambles is political.
If you’re on the left you blame President Trump – just as you blame him for everything from bad weather to burned toast. If you’re on the right you call it the “Schumer Shutdown” – after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – and point out that today’s Democrats are being driven by their extreme “open borders” base.
For what it’s worth, I agree that the Democrats are in thrall to their party’s extremes, in particular on the issue of immigration. And it surely makes sense to handle the DACA issue as part of a negotiated immigration deal, including the border wall and an end to the diversity visa lottery and chain migration.
Using the “Dreamers,” as DACA recipients are known, to hold up agreement on the entire federal budget is a ridiculous and damaging stunt.
About 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children are temporarily allowed to stay here under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which was created under an executive order issued by President Obama in 2012. However, President Trump wants to end DACA in March unless Congress takes action to allow DACA recipients to stay in the U.S.
But none of this explains the real underlying cause of the federal government shutdown that began Saturday. The reason we have to put up with this seemingly endless succession of short-term crises and stop-gap fixes is not political, it’s structural.
The shutdown is not in fact an example of the system failing. It’s exactly what you’d expect to happen given the system we have.
Why can’t they agree to a proper long-term budget in Congress? Because everyone in Congress is fighting for their piece of the pie – and the bigger the pie, the bigger the fight.
More significantly, it’s a fight members of Congress wage for their political survival – because the piece of the federal pie that they’re fighting for is not for their constituents, it’s for the people who really matter to them: the donors and interests that got them to Congress in the first place.
On the left it’s typically the unions (especially the public sector unions) with their money and grassroots organizing power; on the right it’s more often big business and big donors.
Getting appropriations that keep their sponsors happy: that’s the name of the game in these budget negotiations. It’s the Swamp in action.
The only long-term answer is a radical rethink of the entire federal government, transferring most of its functions to the state and local level where they would be carried out more effectively and with more accountability.
For decades now, starting with President Ronald Reagan, we’ve had politicians from both parties make promises about cutting the federal government and its associated bureaucracy. But it never happens – the federal government just grows and grows, giving more and more power to Congress and the bureaucrats.
I know from personal experience inside the British government that piecemeal efforts to slim down government bloat will always fail. The bureaucracy will always win. The only answer is, in fact … a shutdown.
Not a temporary, crisis-driven shutdown. But a long-term, carefully considered, complete and total shutdown of every function of the federal government that could be carried out closer to the people: education, health care, housing, social services, transportation … almost all of it apart from the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury and Justice.
Of course, the Swamp-dwellers who have grown fat off our current, corrupt system would fight with everything they have to hold onto their power and influence. The lobbyist-funded ski trips and weekend getaways would soon dry up if there were no appropriations to dish out in return.
It will take a political revolution to wrench power out of the hands of the Washington establishment and put it in the hands of the people. But don’t bet against it: just look at the evident, embarrassing failure of the current system and its shameless corruption.
That’s exactly how revolutions start.