Cartier: Government shuts down, yet we shut up (column)
According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, in the past 20 years, our government has shutdown 113 times. While 21 of those times occurred around Sept. 11, 2001, the rest are all on us, with an average of two to six per year. This fiscal year alone (since Oct. 1, 2017), we’ve already had four.
Shutdowns are budgetary extensions; Continuing Resolutions (CRs). It’s like those pharmaceutical commercials, where after promoting its product, it shows people dancing in the fields with inspiring music as they announce all the ways in which its product will kill you. Do you hear the music coming out of Washington?
CRs happen because we allow it. We’re good at complaining, not so good at resolving. How long would we survive operating our home or business with no budget?
Unexpected fiscal events occur to everyone. We seek ways to reduce expenses, including some previously considered essentials, and generate additional income with a last resort of incurring debt. For government, essentials reductions include entitlements and even restructuring defense. Increased income may come in additional taxes or trade deals. The shortfall is borrowed on our favorite credit card, the national debt.
Let’s consider for a moment where our federal monies are spent. We have Mandatory and Discretionary spending.
Mandatory spending covers two-thirds of our budget and includes “earned benefits,” such as Medicare and Social Security, which equals 46 percent of our mandatory spending. These areas are automatically funded unless legislation, such as eligibility requirements incur change, such as raising the retirement age, which reduces expenses. Since we are living longer than these programs were designed to provide, it is a realistic adjustment.
Discretionary spending includes things such Medicaid, federal grants and scientific research. These are reviewed annually, as need varies and are impacted by events like natural disasters. However, the largest portion of the Discretionary budget relates to national security which is influenced by global threat, such as 9-11. We must balance the maintenance of infrastructure with the increases defense concerns from regimes like North Korea. The price paid for unpreparedness is much greater than the dollars designated. However, the greatest threat to a balanced budget is politics. The latest controversy has been DACA and “The Wall.”
To Democrats, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is the issue. Democratic leaders, including former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and yes, Chuck Schumer, have all publicly declared their stance against illegal immigration. This declaration is merely political.
DACA was only put into place to allow Congress time to draft a permanent solution (Deferred Action). What isn’t common knowledge is that its implementation is totally arbitrary, thus making millions of Hispanics completely dependent upon a random system. We need a permanent solution and Trump demands it.
Both parties agree on securing the border and establishing a wall or fence. The challenge is how we handle the millions of illegal immigrants who currently live here. While it is true that immigration laws have been broken, we must also accept a degree of responsibility for ignoring enforcement of our policies for decades, giving the impression that remaining here illegally was acceptable and without consequence.
For Republicans, President Trump wants the full cost of the border wall approved; estimated at $20 billion. If only a small portion is approved for funding and is later eliminated, then prior money spent would be wasted as it does not accomplish the security objectives.
With another shutdown possible in two weeks, what can be done? Most areas are a bit out of reach, but we do have total control over its employer — us. Party politics is a response to constituent demands. What are ours? How about a functioning government?
Electing “outsiders” and expecting them to remain so is like hiring a CEO who has absolutely no experience and forbidding them to learn from others, including our own leadership. Well-intentioned amateurs cannot always produce professional results. We also expect our Representatives to only work three days a week and come home the other four. This weekly travel produces nothing but expensive inefficiency. We also admonish them for socializing with opposing peers, when it is essential that they develop relationships across the aisle, to secure passage of critical legislation, as it often requires the opposition’s vote to take us over the congressional finish line. We must remember that we are playing the long-game for future generations. Sometimes we must allow a smaller setback, to reposition us for a greater win.
Let’s begin solving the government shutdown situation right here at home. Make sure our expectations are realistic; understand that solutions come in varying packages and the desired result may arrive via a different route; remembering that every action causes a reaction, thus, everything comes at a price. Establish priorities, determine value, estimate cost and adjust accordingly. We have greater control than we think.
Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. For further information, visit http://www.cartierwinningimages.com. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.