(Federal) Government Shutdown – Day xx

Well, the current partial shutdown of the Federal Government of the United States is now (on January 14, 2019) officially the longest such shutdown on record. Great.

When the Government re-opens – as it surely will – all of the government workers who are now “furloughed” will get paid what they would have earned if they’d been working. I assume that the contractors who aren’t currently being paid will get paid then as well.

So, what will be the eventual result of all this Government Theater? With the exception of some additional cost involved in the re-opening… nothing. Absolutely nothing.

If President Trump relents and agrees to sign a funding bill that does not include funding for the wall (or fence or moat or whatever – hereinafter referred to as “the wall”), it won’t get built.

If the Democrats relent and agree to fund the wall, it still won’t get built. Some person or group or business will file for an injunction in one of the liberal leaning Federal Circuit Courts and the court will issue the injunction. Or they’ll find out that there is some endangered insect on part of the border whose population would be negatively impacted by the wall and they’ll get some type of indefinite delay while “experts” study the situation. Or something else. Business as usual.

No matter what happens, the American people will be the losers. The Federal Government will continue to tax them, ignore their wants and needs, and spend their money to enrich themselves and their cronies.

Radically reducing the amount of money available to unaccountable Federal Government spendthrifts is the only way to save America. The Local Tax Plan is one way to do that.

(Federal) Government Shutdown – Day 17

As of January 7, 2019, we’ve begun day 17 of the third-longest Federal Government (Partial) Shutdown on record. Ostensibly, the shutdown is over funding to build a wall on the country’s southern border, between the United States and Mexico. President Trump wants $5 billion allocated for the wall, while the House of Representatives have only offered about $1.3 billion, and they really don’t even want to spend that much. In point of fact, the Democrats don’t want a border wall built at all. One wonders if they’d also like to dismantle whatever portions of a border barrier already exist, but I guess it would cost money to tear that down.

Note that the dispute is not over the idea of a barrier on the border to prevent people from surreptitiously entering the United States. The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which has recently been used to – incorrectly – suggest that the Democrats are in favor of a border wall, easily passed and was signed into law. Even though the bill has the word “fence” in the title, the summary of the bill uses the terms “physical infrastructure” and “physical barriers,” and also includes surveillance using a combination of technologies. The summary does use the word fence in some text that requires “fence completion” in at least a couple of instances, but it’s unclear to me if that means to finish a fence that was already approved and funded, or if it refers to a new fence. In any case, the majority of Congressmen and Senators who voted for the bill certainly should have known that “physical infrastructure” and “physical barrier” could mean something other than a fence.

By the way, it may cost as much to re-open the government when all this is settled (and it will be, one way or another) that the $5 billion that the President wants to build the wall. So from a purely financial perspective, the bickering is a wash. If this shutdown should stretch on until the cost projections exceed $5 billion, you can be sure that President Trump, the Republican caucus, and conservative news outlets will point that fact out, and, in my opinion, it will hurt the Democrats who now hold the purse strings for the country.

Finally, in the definition of “fence” at Dictionary.com, the first definition is: “a barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc., usually made of posts and wire or wood, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary.” (Emphasis on the word “usually” is mine.) But “usually” is not “always,” so one could successfully argue that a wall is a type of fence.

Many people are being negatively affected by this shutdown, with those who work for the Federal Government and some of its contractors on the front lines. Even though they will eventually get paid for this time – which they didn’t work – things like rent or house payments, healthcare, utilities, and food still have to be paid now.

So, Democrats, give the President the $5 billion and let the Federal Government “re-open.” After all, Congress spent between $2 billion and $3 billion on the “Cash for Clunkers” program (which didn’t even work) without needing a “Government Shutdown.” Just go ahead and spend the $5 billion.

(Federal) Government Shutdown – Oh My!

I put the word “Federal” in parentheses because most people just talk about a “Government Shutdown” as though the Federal Government is the only – or at least the major – Government. This is much like when a lot of people talk about “health care” and “health insurance” they lump them together, forgetting that they are two completely different issues (but that’s another post on another site).

As this post is being written (on Friday, December 28, 2018) the Federal Government is, indeed, “shut down.” This is because they ran out of money, which should be impossible because there is supposedly a Federal Budget that determines how the money collected by the Federal Government will be spent. But as I suspect (and hope) that we all know, our Federal Government is irresponsible and untrustworthy, and they don’t follow their own – or anyone else’s – rules. Accountability of the Federal Government would help here, but, sadly, there is none.

Don’t worry, though, the “shutdown” isn’t as bad as it sounds. All of the “essential” services are still at work, and only the “non-essential” services are shut down. This begs the question: why are non-essential services ever funded? That’s a good question, and a question to which I’ve never heard a good answer.

While I think we all can agree on what some of the essential services are – the military, law enforcement, and air traffic control immediately come to mind, and I’m sure there are others – I’d like to focus on a couple of the “non-essential” services. These services are the national parks and the passport office(s) (at least I think the passport offices are shut down, from what I can gather).

The national parks being shut down is probably the most noticeable effect of a Federal Government shutdown. Many of the parks are still accessible to those who want to visit them, and the Park Rangers are probably still on duty, but the welcome centers, guides, and other services that enhance the experience of visiting somewhere like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone are almost certainly unavailable. This is unfortunate, but not life-changing. I remember the shutdown during the early fall of 2013, when the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., was closed. They had enough personnel to put up barriers to try to keep out some veterans who wanted to visit during that time, but apparently not enough to keep the outdoor memorial “open.” I’ve been to the WWII memorial, and it’s much like the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument – mostly just granite, marble, and concrete, all basically exposed to the elements, where you just walk around and look at it from different angles and read some engraved writing. Why even bother to “close” them at all?

The real question – in my mind – is why do we even have national parks in the first place? This doesn’t sound like something the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they designed our system of government. I think that all of the “national” parks should be ceded to the state or states in which they are located. Let the states fund them and provide the personnel for the welcome centers, develop interpretive exhibits, build and maintain restrooms and wheelchair ramps, and do whatever else is required. The states should then be free to charge out-of-state visitors (and even state residents, if they choose) an entry fee (some of the national parks do this now – I know for a fact that the Blue Ridge Parkway charges an entry fee, because I’ve paid it multiple times). There is simply no legitimate reason that the states can’t do the job, and they’d probably do it better.

I’d go even further, too, and say that I think that the Federal Government should not own any land at all (with the possible exception of Washington, D.C., but that’s debatable, too). The forests and undeveloped land owned by the Feds should immediately be ceded to the states in which they are located. Also, military bases, test ranges, and related lands should be transitioned to the states. The Federal Government could then lease the lands and buildings from the states for whatever terms they can agree on. This would have the very advantageous effect of letting the states directly compete for base locations, instead of having those decisions affected by lobbyists, favor-trading among perhaps less-than-scrupulous congressmen, and backroom deals. A similar approach would work with any other federally owned land.

Alas, returning these lands to the states would then strengthen the states in relation to the Federal Government, which (begin sarcasm) must not happen – we must have the biggest, strongest Federal Government we can imagine (end sarcasm). Because the Federal Government would have to agree to this, and thus lose some power, it will never happen.

Which brings us to the passport office. A passport these days costs about $100, and any U.S. citizen wanting to travel outside the country has to have one, which sounds like it could be quite a bit of money. So why not let the passport office be self-sustaining? The process and requirements could – and should – be prescribed by the Federal Government, but the offices with the forms, digital cameras, and the actual passport printers could be run at the state level, or even contracted out as a for-profit opportunity (multiple providers should keep the costs down and provide acceptable quality of service).

These are just two examples of over-reach by the Federal Government that do not require either national administration or funding. I suspect there are many others. If the Local Tax Plan were implemented, the states could easily force the above-described changes, along with others that would, overall, save the country money and give the power back to the citizens.