Our View: Shutdowns costly, so please cut ‘non-essentials’ for good

December 19, 2018

Will the federal government partially shut down beginning this weekend? It seems unlikely now, but the White House is sending mixed signals.

If it does, it will be expensive, even more costly than keeping the already-expensive federal government going.

This cost alone should convince the Congress and President Trump to do their jobs and provide a spending plan for the government. It won’t. The shutdown has become an almost-annual ritual, with American taxpayers footing the bill for workers who can’t work and government functions that aren’t performed.

Government shutdowns are a form of political brinksmanship. They’ve generally been performed when the president and Congress are of different parties, unlike now.

This time it’s over the $5 billion wall. The border wall. The wall that is really a metaphor for border security. The one that Trump campaigned on and promised that Mexico would happily pay for.

The Congress and the national press appear of a mind that Trump won’t hesitate to force a shutdown over the issue. His tweet-affirmed that stance, though his spokeswoman yesterday said the president might look elsewhere for wall money.

Should a shutdown occur, though, it will affect about 25 percent of the government. Spending for the rest has already been approved.

Beyond assurances that mail will continue and Social Security checks will go out and that security personnel will be at airports, there’s debate on what, exactly, would shut down.

In this part of the country, the highest profile government agencies are those dealing with federal lands, especially National Parks. They closed for a while in 2013 affecting tourism revenue in Arizona.

It’s unclear whether they would be affected. Closer to home, the Fish and Wildlife Service may be the visible barometer of the shutdown. The public will have a way to see if that agency is closed because in shutdown periods it posts a sign at Crystal Beach and also put a chain across the Mesquite Bay parking lot. The sign and chain would be the most visible local effect of a partial shutdown.

One thing the shutdown does is identify “nonessential” personnel and services. That’s handy for those who wonder why the government has even one nonessential employee or service.

But it’s a little like wondering why taxpayers are asked to pay for a border wall if Mexico is paying for it.

Border security is a high priority but a physical wall is hardly, by itself, a guarantee. The debt-ridden federal government would do the public a big favor by skipping on a $5 billion campaign talking point and maybe getting rid of the “non-essential” spending for good.

— Today’s News-Herald

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