Shutdown and Stand-off!

What the heck is going on?                                             

 

By Dr. Larry Fedewa (January 6, 2019)

One quarter of the United States federal government is closed. Unless you are a federal employee or contractor, you probably haven’t noticed this – yet. But the longer this closing goes on, the more impact it will have on ordinary people. For example, the IRS is not processing refunds – not much of a problem so far but will be in another month. And so it goes with several other agencies.

What then is causing all this disruption? Whose fault is it? How will it be resolved?

The U.S. government has closed a portion of its services because of a dispute between Republicans and Democrats over money. Is the dispute over how best to balance the federal budget? Not so lucky. The dispute is over a$5 billion-line-item – which sounds like a lot of money until you realize that the total federal budget is $4.407 trillion. Since one trillion equals 1000 times one billion, the amount in dispute is such a small percentage of the total budget that you couldn’t even get that number on a calculator – too many zeros.

If the dispute therefore  is not really about money, what is the problem? The problem is that this line item is the funding for a series of walls on the U.S. southern border with Mexico wherever the terrain permits. This proposal builds on the experience of the wall in San Diego which has reduced the flow of illegal immigrants by 96% since 1986 (before the wall was built). While it has been spectacularly successful in its intended purpose, however, smuggling especially of drugs has increased dramatically. Therefore it seems necessary to increase staffing and technology at the ports of entry as well as construction of additional walls in order to  effect improved border security.

That seems like a simple solution to a very troublesome situation. So where is the disagreement? The disagreement comes because President Trump made the continued construction of the walls a major promise of his campaign, and the Democrats are bound and determined not to provide the funding for fulfilling a Trump campaign promise, especially after he did not get it when the Republicans controlled the government for two years. (That failed because the Republicans did not have a “filibuster-proof” majority in the Senate (60 votes) so the Senate Democrats were able to block this funding.)

The new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to deny the President funding for the walls at any cost. So far the cost has been a partially closed government. She has reiterated the oath of office all legislators take to protect the American people and affirmed the desire of Democrats to protect the border. She supports a vague call for additional staffing and technology (“drones”) to accomplish this, but she has called the walls “immoral”. (She has not addressed the San Diego wall.)

So where will the solution come from? The President is mindful of the price President George H.W. Bush paid for breaking his campaign promise not to raise taxes, and thus he has little room for compromise. One way or another he must get the building started. He has hinted at other alternatives to Congressional funding, such as using military appropriations to address illegal immigration as a national security threat, or even declaring that the thousands of immigrants flooding our borders constitute a national emergency.

The Democrats face other pressures. 700,000 federal employees belong to the American Federation of Government Workers (AFGW), which traditionally supports the Democrats, and which has already sued the federal government for lost wages. That voice will get louder and more aggressive as the next payday comes and goes without paychecks.

The voice of public opinion will also become more important as the government closure becomes more apparent – for both sides. At this point, it appears that the Democrats are the most likely to blink first. However, any predictions in this new topsy-turvy political world we find ourselves in are tenuous at best. Like a ball game, unforeseen events and surprises can happen at any time. Our politicians even might – heaven forbid! – put the good of the American people first one of these times!

© 2019 Richfield Press (All rights reserved)

 

 


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