Monday, September 26, 2011

No more shutdowns!

We have reached the point in our political circus where  we must celebrate the Senate's historic bi-partisan agreement to . . . wait for it . . . . keep the government open for a few more weeks. Some of my more cynical readers might question whether that is a good thing. Of course that is a good thing! We don't accomplish anything by shutting the government down. It costs money. It ruins people's vacations. It keeps business from getting done. It makes our country look foolish in the eyes of the world. It makes Congress look incompetent. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there is nothing good about shutting the government down, and there is also no reason ever to do it. Even politically, it doesn't really ever seem to advance the cause of those who try it. 

A lot of Congressmen seem to like pledges, so I will suggest a pledge. Congressmen  should all pledge never to shut the government down. I mean it's fine if they want to shut it down for a holiday or a national emergency. But never when somebody can't get their way on any particular issue. Don't be the spoiled child who says you will take their ball and bat home if the other kids won't agree to your rules. Don't be the anarchist who says you will throw a bomb into the room if the other Congressmen won't agree to your proposals. Shutting down the government is not supposed to be part of any Congressman's job description. Your job is to keep the government in operation. So just agree in advance that no matter what, you are not going to shut down the government if you don't get your way. Sounds simple? It is simple!

What my suggested rule would mean is that the parties all need to understand that they have to come to an agreement before one of these deadlines expires. FEMA is going to run out of money this week? OK, that means solve this FEMA thing. That means it's time to make a deal. It is not time to throw a temper tantrum and say if you don't get your way, you are shutting the government down. No more hostage taking. You want to get something else done: get a majority to vote for it. Don't threaten to cut off funds for disaster relief if you can't get something else done.

Everybody got it now? Good. Play nice.

(Andrews/New York Times photo)

UPDATE: For a more detailed analysis, try this article in the Atlantic

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