The Real Cause of the Government Shut-down

Today you will hear vicious attacks by Republicans and Democrats, each blaming the other for the impasse. 


Rather than giving a re-cap of their talking points, it’s time to take a hard look at the real roots of the problem.


#1 Neither Republicans nor Democrats can balance the budget.


The federal budget has only been “balanced” five times since 1960. Even in those years, and certainly throughout and since the Clinton administration, you can make a strong case that these budgets were balanced in appearance only, not in practice. 

If American citizens and businesses report a balanced budget, it means that revenues exceed expenditures. The government on the other hand often balances a budget by creatively deferring expenses or removing future obligations entirely from the present record. When these measures fall short, our federal government uses the ultimate budget balancing tool, one not available to you or I…


They print more money.


In what other organization would you allow operations to continue without a realistic and sustainable budget? How can any organization survive by continually spending more than it makes and continually borrowing to cover the shortfall?


No organization can survive this way. Your family couldn’t survive this way, your business could not survive this way and our federal government cannot survive this way.


Pay close attention: It is only January and we’re already in the throws of a government shut-down. Regardless of any compromise pending, how many more times will our elected representatives hold us hostage in the coming months?


#2 We can’t allow the functional business of government to be held hostage to any partisan political agenda.


That sounds idealistic on the face of it––and we can’t ignore the fact that government is, by definition, political. 

However––in the past there was a greater separation of specific political objectives and the fundamental operations of the federal government. We do have to look back a long way to find it, but more important is the reason we’ve lost this separation.


The concept of “germaneness” was once honored to a much greater extent. As the federal government became ever larger and more complex, it became expedient to tie many issues together in packages. This tendency expanded to the point where we now have “omnibus” bills and spending packages.

To keep it simple, the result is that specific partisan items are traded like commodities. Many issues that impact us on Main Street are never discussed or debated, they are simply exchanged for future favors and buried in thousands of pages of unrelated legislation.


Nowhere is this more evident or dangerous than in the process of drafting spending bills and the now ever-present continuing resolutions that continue nothing but excessive spending and the absence of a genuine budget.


No matter what your opinion on DACA, it has absolutely nothing to do with our obligation to pay our military personnel, keep our airports running and distributing actual entitlements like Social Security payments. 


Whether or not you want to provide services for children of undocumented immigrants, this issue should be debated openly, not simply attached to a resolution that “keeps the lights on.”


Believe it or not, the House of Representatives is legally bound to this concept. Here’s a direct quote from the House rules website: 

“Clause 7 of rule XVI, called the ‘germaneness rule,’ stands for the simple proposition that an amendment must address the same subject as the matter being amended. The germaneness rule was adopted by the House in 1789 and has remained the same since it was last changed in 1822. The purpose of the rule is to provide for the orderly consideration of amendments to bills and resolutions by requiring a relationship between the amendment and the matter being amended. The existence of this rule is one of the key procedural differences between the House and Senate.”


Of course, it’s generally argued that all issues are budgetary issues, so one could say that the issue being debated here isn’t the merits of DACA itself, but the funding for it. That’s nothing but semantic sleight of hand. 


The argument is often that a particular item, in this case funding for DACA, is a strict budgetary issue because it is already established policy. Opposition will try to end it using the “power of the purse” to defund it. 

The point is that the debate should be over the strict merits and effectiveness of the program itself––period. Not which party particularly supports or opposes it, which is often a moving target. In fact on this issue you can now watch numerous videos of outspoken Democrats and Republicans alternately supporting or condemning public support of illegal immigrants and their children. 


Is the program working?


Is it cost effective?


What are the long term benefits, if any?


Were there any negative consequences?


Were there any unanticipated costs?


Are there now ways to achieve the same objectives more effectively and efficiently?


These are the fundamental considerations you would consider in crafting a budget for your home or business. 


And you would certainly not shut down your entire business as you weighed the pros and cons of any particular program, process or initiative. You would––keep the lights on.


If our federal government has proven anything over the past several decades, it has proven that it is woefully inept when it comes to fiscal responsibility. The major parties have become in and of themselves “special interest groups” in that their focus is more on political survival than on defending the ideals of liberty and self-government. 


Meanwhile, we largely feel powerless to do anything but bend to the will of federal authority, though we do reserve the right to occasionally complain and criticize along the way.


It is time to reverse this decline. It’s time to stop tolerating federal rule and return to an authentic process of representative government, one in which the will of the people is honored with the appropriate weight and the power of the political class is held in check. 


Two party governance has failed. They cannot fulfill their fundamental responsibilities. This is not a criticism––it is fact.


You can continue to elect servants of the ruling political establishment, or you can give serious consideration to electing representatives who hold your interests as sacred and who are pledged to honor and defend individual liberty, freedom and self-governance. 


It’s time for the sentiments of the majority to be respected. The will of the American people is best reflected in the ideals of the Libertarian Party. 


Jim Bouchard

Communications Director