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Shutting Down the Government Piles Up Debt and Erodes Faith in Leadership


It will still take a while to calculate exactly how much the recent government shutdown will end up costing taxpayers, though initial studies are already citing numbers approaching $3 billion. One of the biggest costs: paying back all of the furloughed government workers for the free vacation the nonsensical tactic ultimately produced. So, how do people ostensibly concerned with our growing national debt justify such idiocy? With more of the same, of course.

The Republican-led House that set the shutdown into motion, voted 407-0 to pay hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers retroactively, a practice that continues a precedent set in previous shutdowns. So even though taxpayers lost government services, tax revenues fell from depressed spending, money in the economy was spent or shifted to less productive places meant to hedge against risk and the continued costs of getting the government moving again continue to add up.

If a party that has made fighting debt and deficits its signature issue for several election cycles employs a tactic that only serves to inflate both, how might it explain the obvious dichotomy? Well, with more nonsensical lines of argument it seems. Republicans in the House who pushed for the shutdown are now explaining that the seemingly contradicting position is just misunderstood; that it wasn't about debt, only dismantling Obamacare.

Congressmen like John Campbell (R-Calif), who most recently made the news cycles for his comment that Republicans' voting to re-open government and avoid default last week was “complete surrender,” told the Washington Post that for him, the shutdown didn't matter and that it was just a vehicle to bring the fight over Obamacare “to a head.”

Considering that a large majority of Republicans expressed an understanding that using the votes on the continuing resolution to fund government and the debt ceiling authorization to attempt to dismantle a law supported by both the Democratic-led Senate and the President was at best a fool's errand, one really does have to wonder how many members of Congress really understand the dynamics at play when such monumental moves are made.

In voting for the backpay, Congressmen on both sides of the aisle seemed to be saying that government employees shouldn't pay for Congress' inability to do what either side felt should have been done. They're right, but if the shutdown was never going to work and never going to be anything more than expensive and wasteful political theater, in which the American people ended up paying dearly for services they didn't get and essentially giving hundreds of thousands of federal employees free vacations that they didn't ask for, doesn't that make it just about the most foolish thing to ever come out of a place utterly awash in foolishness?

The American people seem to think so. Polling numbers for the Republican Party are absolutely abysmal and indicate that the American people overwhelmingly blame the GOP for the shutdown and its effects. With a mid-term election just a year away, that's not a good place to be, especially when the other party controls two of the three institutions of power already. In recent weeks, there have already been a couple of telling results in special races at both the state and national level. The upcoming special election here in Florida to replace the seat left vacant by the recently-departed Rep. C.W. Bill Young will be another test of voters' moods, especially if Democrats are competitive in such a traditionally-safe Republican disrtrict. 

Outside of the party faithful out on the fringe, all metrics indicate that the American people are revolting against the direction extremist elements of the Republican Party are managing to steer it in. Those forces have made it clear that they intend to double down, rather than ease up. It will be interesting to see whether old guard elements in the party will be able to regain the reins and put them back on a more moderate path that doesn't seem destined to further reduce their influence.

Dennis Maley's column appears every Thursday and Sunday in The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at dennis.maley@thebradentontimes.com. Click here to visit his column archive. Click here to go to his bio page. You can also follow Dennis on Facebook.


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