As we are in the midst of the longest government shutdown ever, it is important to understand

this not just a political failure.

This is a societal failure with a significant impact.

This shutdown is inexcusable. The President is willing to put the country at risk simply because he cannot get his way. And while he is not getting his way and Congress is unwilling to come together to utilize their powers of checks and balances afforded them. Meanwhile, this what the American people are getting:

 

Shutdown protest near Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Jan.8, 2019.
Source: Matt Rourke, AP

  1. Over 800,000 government employees having to live without a paycheck;
  2. An estimated 4.1 million employees of Federal contractors who have to live without a paycheck with no guarantees of back pay;
  3. Heightened national  and cyber security risk-which if this shutdown was about advancing national security, makes the shutdown counter-intuitive at best;
  4. Travelers are now facing amplified travel strains due to the shutdown’s impact on air traffic control and security;
  5. Affordable Housing for Low Income Citizens are at risk due to HUD’s inability to renew 170 housing contracts;
  6. More than 38 million recipients of food stamps, most of whom are children and older adults, are now at heightened risk of being left to starve;
  7. Startups relying on Initial Public Offerings for further growth can no longer have them issued until the shutdown is over and the backlog is cleared by the SEC;
  8. As we are in tax season, the tax filing process will be strained due to limited IRS support staff-impacting all taxpayers;
  9. Public Health programs, health services for Native Americans, and FDA oversight of food safety are now compromised due to the shutdown;
  10. Consumer spending declines during a government shutdown, with a household average decline of 10%. Given consumer spending constitutes approximately 70% of the nation’s economic activity, this is significant impediment to economic growth as recognized by the Consumer Finance Protection Board;
  11. Small businesses that depend on consumer spending are taking an economic hit due to less consumer spending activity during the shutdown. Small businesses which service Federal Contracts can collectively expect a multi-million $ impact at a time they cannot afford it. Further, small business in need of capital can no longer obtain small business loans. Finally, many of these business owners are the people federal employees and contracts owe money to and they still have employees to pay and debt to service that was not shutdown. Wall St. can weather this storm, but Main St. cannot;
  12. An estimated 25% impact on quarterly GDP;
  13. State and Local jurisdictions now have to front the cost of capital for programs traditionally finance by the Federal government with no guarantee of reimbursement. Further, because of the furloughs, State and Local governments are seeing an uptick in demand for social services that were not anticipated nor budgeted for. Many towns also expect transportation services and economic growth generally tied to attraction to national parks to stop; and
  14. National Parks face years of damage due to the impact of the shutdown on capital and maintenance services. This impact leads to a residual impact of making parks less attractive-further impacting the economies of local towns and well-beings of local small businesses and residents.

For the sake of political grandstanding and posturing, we are putting the well-being of our people, economy, Localities, States, safety, and the environment at risk. This exists because of a Presidential threat of a veto if he does not get his way and a Congress not willing to work and pass a veto-proof budget to eliminate this risk.

Further these risks are not isolated to this shutdown-they were present and materialized in prior shutdowns. While our present shutdown is the longest on record, this is not an unprecedented moment as highlighted by the following chart:

The fact of the matter is for the sake of a well-functioning society, the government cannot be shutdown. Government exists to provide for the common defense and public welfare of the nation. The existence of any shutdown government is dereliction of Constitutional purpose and duty by Congress to make these provisos and the President’s duty to take care that the laws of the nation are faithfully executed.

Choosing to go on recess or to shutdown the government over a petty demonstration of declining Presidential power only adds insult to injury. This dereliction comes at the expense of we the people from whom that duty is owed. But it can be rectified if Congress choose to act and create a budget with at least two-thirds approval of the House and Senate so that the President’s vetoes are overridden.  

Further, it is not enough to simply demand Congress not be paid for failing to do their job. This is because too many members of Congress are privileged enough to be able to not live paycheck to paycheck. It is also not enough to simply ask Congress to pass a budget given the impact the shutdown has had. Finally it is not enough, given the fundamental risk to the nation any shutdown poses, to simply address this present shutdown without guarding against the risk of future shutdowns.

Thus, at this very hour, there are two big picture questions that must be answered as a matter of policy:

  1. What should be done to compensate for the harms caused by the shutdown?
  2. What steps should be taken to insure this foolishness does not occur again?


This is just another example of how Congress is all to willing to roll over and cede to Executive Power for the sake of shrugging off any accountability. The fact of the matter is, if Congress had 2/3 votes in the House and the Senate a bill could be passed today.

Mitch McConnell is refusing to even bring spending legislation that are outside of the scope of the immigration debate. Such as for the IRS, USDA and other organizations.

Congress has the power to stop this and it’s time Congress did their job. Here’s some other steps they can take to prevent his issue in the future and be the check to the Executive Branch they should be.

What should be done to compensate for the harms caused by the shutdown:

Congress was right to approve a veto-proof bill to eventual provide backpay to furloughed employees. In addition to approving a budget for the next fiscal year, Congress should do the following:

  1. Provide backpay to the contractors and their employees;
  2. Increase investment in National Parks to expedite repair for the harms caused to them’
  3. Provide reimbursement to States and Local Jurisdictions for all cost incurred due to the impact of the shutdown;
  4. Pass legislation to protect people and businesses affected by the shutdown from creditors, evictions, and charging of interest on outstanding debt that only occurred due to the shutdown.
  5. Provide a targeted economic stimulus for communities around the country most affected by the shutdown to compensate for the lost economic impact due to the shutdown.
  6. Extend the IRS Tax Filing Deadline.
  7. Expedite Appropriations for Food Stamp and HUD Housing Contracts.

What steps should be taken to insure this foolishness does not occur again   

  1. Congress should pass a law calling for an Automatic Continuing Budget Resolution in the event a new budget cannot be agreed upon. This way, the government can continue to operate while Congress and the President finalize a new budget by continuing the present budget. This law should not include an automatic budget reduction mechanism like this current proposal does. This law should include a rule calling for automatic back pay and protections against interest and evictions in the event Congress seeks to terminate an Automatic Continuing Budget Resolution.
  2. Congress should also pass a law calling for a reduction in pay for members of Congress and the President for each day a budget does not pass after a certain period of time.
  3. Funding for housing contracts, food assistance programs, food safety inspectors and national security personnel must be guaranteed as core funding; and
  4. We the people need to punish parties at the polls for using the budget and those most vulnerable as political pawns in a game of intransigence. This is the greatest safeguard.

Fundamentally, we owe it to our nation and its people to correct for the effects of this shutdown while guarding against this from occurring again. We can accomplish both with a Brand New Congress.

You can help Brand New Congress seat representatives who will hold our Executive Branch accountable and work for the people and not for corporate interests. We are gearing up for a whole new slate in 2020. Please donate below to help us take this movement forward.

 

Ron Stubblefield is an Economic Development Consultant and Attorney. He volunteers with Brand New Congress by contributing to platform and policy development and commenting on the issues that matter to voters.