The Worst Parts Of the Government Don't Get Shut Down, Unfortunately
If you have survived the imminent doom of a possible government shutdown and are somehow reading this today, you might be surprised that very little has actually changed.
Despite the apocalyptic rhetoric and the finger-pointing, the threats of government shutdowns are not a new occurrence in American history and actually distract from far more important fiscal and economic issues.
Since 1976, there have been 17 (now 18) occasions on which there was no agreement on funding the federal government. The longest one lasted all of three weeks during the Clinton administration, without any of the dire consequences we are constantly being told will inevitably come to pass.
So why is there such gloom and doom coming from the Beltway and the media?
The cynical answer would be that it's just another political sideshow, but perhaps there is some truth in this. The two political parties may be bickering back and forth and fractions of a percentage of cuts may or may not be made, but even if there is technically a government shutdown, will any of what lies at the heart of the state's power be shut down?
Of course not. President Obama's fleet of flying robots will still be firing incredibly expensive missiles into multiple countries. It costs $1 million per year per soldier and $400 per gallon to occupy Afghanistan, but they won't be sent home. JSOC Special Forces will continue to spread across Africa. The NSA will still spy on and monitor us like free-range cattle, the FBI will still break the law to enforce it, the DEA will still punish victimless crimes, and the rest of the alphabet soup of violence and coercion will still loot and plunder us.
The essence of state power — the supposed right of some to use the threat or the application of lethal force against the innocent — will remain intact. The "fireman first!" strategy of threatening cuts to programs for the poor and needy (programs people actually want) is used to scare us into dependency. While politicians bicker over a few fingernails, the central nervous system of government power, like the military-industrial complex and overseas offensive bases that dot the planet's face like acne, are never on the chopping block.
How can these government programs and operations still continue indefinitely despite threats of a supposed shutdown? Because the U.S. government makes more promises than it could possibly pay out, it must either borrow money, print it, or both. As of this writing, the official U.S. debt is $17 trillion with perhaps as much as $200 trillion in future unfunded liabilities.
As Linda Yueh notes in the BBC, this debt problem "could now prevent the U.S. from borrowing to pay the interest on the money that it has already borrowed." Read that sentence again. The U.S. government has now come to a point where it has to borrow and print money to pay the interest on money that it has previously borrowed and printed.
Even in the face of numbers like these that should put serious doubts into trusting both a political system that would allow this to occur and the operatives who insist that nothing is wrong, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lashed out at those who oppose yet another entitlement program. "We're not going to bow to Tea Party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law," Reid recently said with a straight face. "We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists who refuse to accept that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional."
This is what I mean by a sideshow and a distraction. Anarchists? Really? With the exception of Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the Republicans who oppose Obamacare can't be taken too seriously. This is the same party, after all, that gave us the largest expansion of government medicine in history, record budget deficits, torture memos, and multi-trillion dollar wars.
But since when did organized opposition to a law become such heresy? Just because some old, robed men and women decree that something is law does not make it just or fair. What about the Fugitive Slave Act? Citizens United? Roe v. Wade? Congressional rubber stamps on bills that abolish much of the Bill of Rights? Under this mentality, it makes all levels of authoritarianism, from oppressive regulations to internment camps, "legal."
But don't mind that, folks, there might be a government shutdown! Except for all the killing and spying, of course.
If Americans realized the financial and economic mess the U.S. government has put us in, they'd beg for a government shutdown. Not a phony one like this, but demand that the empire and national-security state be dismantled immediately.
And as for the programs and social services that they always threaten to cut? These are much better handled by the free market, civic society, voluntary organizations, and local governments anyway.