Within hours of the federal government’s partial-temporary-non-essential-service-related shutdown, the U.S. Census Bureau’s website went dark. The website that provides tax and spending data on state and local governments. Within minutes, the privately funded Tax Foundation (an AFP Foundation coalition partner) went live with the same data to fill the gap for research-ready data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Their announcement? They will keep the data service live on The Tax Foundation site for the duration of the shutdown. One must wonder how long the federal government can get away with pronouncements of dire consequence before the American people start to call their bluff or realize a free market opportunity and step in to fill the void?
Earlier this year, Americans witnessed a federal government overplay its hand on the sequester cuts, moving to furlough FAA air traffic controllers. The effort lasted a week before millions of private citizens started to run the math and read the headlines and call it for what it was – an orchestrated political stunt that was unnecessary given the resource allocation available to a Congress with the deference of Congressional authority. To be certain, government will trot out a series of service cuts and the media will answer with a litany of anecdotal stories to underscore the message – “America can’t live under a partial-temporary-non-essential-service-related government shutdown”. But that will be it.
Americans are now undergoing a healthy exercise. We are grappling with what reality on the ground is relative to the “government shutdown” hyperbole. Bottom line: the government is not shutting down, just being down-sized. What services stay operational? Air travel, international travel, Social Security and Medicare payments, federal courts, mail, the overwhelming majority of food assistance programs, Homeland Security, military, prisons and veterans services, unemployment benefits, among others.
The longer the shutdown goes on, the more Americans have an opportunity to compare and contrast; to see so much of the unnecessary waste in government for what it is. And the longer industrious organizations like The Tax Foundation will have time to step in and effectively transfer ownership of those non essential services into the hands of the private sector. The more Thomas Jefferson’s message – “government is best that governs least” – will ring true in the ears of everyday Americans. The more we will realize that a government operating light years beyond its scope needs us to need them more than we ever needed them. The more we will ask the essential question, “what IS an ESSENTIAL government service.”
The mood in the U.S. Senate was pathetic Monday night as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed his finger of blame at everyone but self with accusations of obstructionist. He accused conservatives of refusing to negotiate even as he said no to repeated legislative attempts and good will efforts put forth by those same people. GA Congressman David Scott howled from the House floor, “If you loved this country, you would not be closing it down!” The counter points are more accurate–A) we’re not, and B) if you love your country, you will not drive it and its inhabitants into unnecessary financial insolvency. I would also add, C) Harry Reid shut down the government.
Freedom is solutions oriented. Freedom is addictive. And if Washington does not become more judicious and self reflective on the proper role of government, they may find themselves pleading for relevance through a series of political stunts against a nation warming up to the idea of exactly how much they are capable of accomplish without government intrusions and handouts.