Government Shutdown Looms

David Williams

March 29, 2011

Federal agencies and citizens are preparing for a potential government shut down if democrats and republicans don’t come to an agreement about funding the federal government for the rest of (or part of) the 2011 fiscal year.

A government shut down means different things to different people.  Those who have become dependent on the federal government’s largess are concerned their gravy train may be halted temporarily.  On the other side, weary taxpayers are looking forward to a vacation from government spending.

Those opposed to a government shutdown are starting to use scare tactics.  According to the Huffington Post, “A prolonged government shutdown could deliver a blow to many poor American families by limiting or delaying access to the federal government’s largest anti-poverty program, the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

As a general rule, it is important to talk about the poor when trying to persuade the public.  Shortly after the Republicans took over in 1994, they tried to reduce the rate of growth in the school lunch program in 1995.  Robert Novak wrote on March 30, 1995 that “Republicans have been wringing their hands in dismay over getting clobbered in the communications wars. In the madcap rush for passage of the Contract’s 10 items in 100 days, the GOP leadership neglected to construct defenses. It was not even made clear that the school lunch program would still rise by 4.5 percent a year.”

The reality is that a government shutdown may do more good than harm.  There are countless programs marbled throughout the government that could use a “time out.”  For example, the Market Access Program (MAP) spends $200 million annually to encourage “the development, maintenance, and expansion of commercial export markets for agricultural commodities. Activities financed include consumer promotions, market research, technical assistance, and trade servicing.”  MAP is nothing more than corporate welfare since beneficiaries have included Sunkist Growers, Inc. and The Popcorn Board, and the Wine Institute to just name a few.

We have learned a lesson from an earmark-free year (so far), that despite the prognostications of doom and gloom from Congress’s biggest earmarkers, the country has been fine and we have survived without earmarks.

It is now time for fiscal conservatives to draw a line in the sand with spending and shut down the government if democrats don’t agree.  This will also be fulfilling a promise that the republicans made with taxpayers in 2010 that they are serious about getting our fiscal house in order.