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Who’s Afraid of a Government Shutdown?

There’s been talk lately that the federal government might shut down, due to Obamacare or the debt ceiling or a convoluted combination of the two, and some people seem worried about it. Some people will always worry about such things, we suppose, but it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about.
The government has shut down too many times to keep track of, including a sizeable number of federal holidays and almost every weekend of the year, and if not for all the furor in the press it would almost always have gone unnoticed. All the stories invariably involve families that are disappointed to find a national park closed while on their vacations, which seems a minor inconvenience at a time when all the kids should be in school, or horror stories about old folks starving in the streets for want of a Social Security check, which never seems to actually occur, and most readers remain unconvinced that there’s a real problem. The stock markets typically take a slight temporary dive, although that might be for fear the federal government will eventually return to work, but otherwise the economy stumbles along in its usual way. All the cops and firemen and other useful public servants are still on the job, drawing paychecks from state and local governments that some how manage to stay in business throughout the year, and all of the “nonessential” personnel who are furloughed for the duration prove as nonessential as advertised.
President Barack Obama is warning that a government shutdown will mean the nation’s bills go unpaid and America will be a “deadbeat” and a “banana republic,” with economic catastrophe following from the international doubt about the full faith and credit of the country, but we suspect this is only because the old saws about national park closings and unsent Social Security checks have lost their scariness. He also talks about those crazy spendthrift Republicans have been running up a huge tab against his frugal counsel and now want to “run out on the bill,” as if he hasn’t fought against their effort to restrain spending, and has offered the preposterous claim that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t mean the country will go further into debt, making the president sound rather desperate for something to say. Thus far even the supposedly anarchist wing of the Republican party has been willing to pay for all the government anyone might want except for Obamacare, and they’ll surely cave on that one sensible demand before they allow the government to default on its obligations to bondholders, so the economic catastrophe will have to await the all-too-soon date when the government debt has grown so large that the bondholders stop buying and the Fed is forced to concede that it can’t keep printing up money to pay them.
The people who are most worried about a government shutdown seem to be politicians worried mostly about who get the blame if anything noticeably bad actually does happen. Many Republicans, especially the ones with a professional stake in the party’s political fortunes, are understandably concerned that the traditional media outrage will once again bring the electorate’s wrath down upon in the upcoming mid-term elections and hand complete political control to Democratic party hell-bent on the same sort of mischief they inflicted on the country in the first two years of Obama’s reign. The Democrats, on the other hand, fear a government shutdown because it once again might have no noticeable effect and thus remind the country that it really doesn’t need to pay them so much money to run the meddlesome behemoth.
With neither party gaining any advantage from a prolonged government shutdown, it’s not likely to happen. Preventing it will mean Obamacare and another trillion or so of federal debt, both of which are far more disastrous than a government shutdown, but at least the full faith and credit of the country will be restored and banana republic status delayed for another year or so. That should get us past the mid-terms, and that’s all that anybody is really worried about.

— Bud Norman

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