Shutdown Governing: A No-Good Way to Run a Nation

Post by Rob Taber

Reading the tea Postum leaves, it looks we will have a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling by later today, though it may take a few days to wind a perilous path through the Hill.

Even if Congress passes the Reid-McConnell compromise, however, our problems aren't over.

A short-term continuing resolution and a four-month increase in the debt ceiling staves off default and gets some people back to work, but it doesn't solve the deeper problems we're facing that are hindering American innovation and the investments in human capital that we need for the coming century.

The Farm Bill, passed by the Senate, still languishes in the House, which is more focused on cutting SNAP and on continuing farm subsidies (but under a new program!) than on supporting beginning farmers and funding scientific research to make our farms more sustainable and productive in the long-run.

Immigration reform, passed by the Senate, has also faltered in the House. LDS Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), received favorable press from across the aisle earlier this year as "the new LDS face of immigration policy." However, he abandoned bipartisan talks in early June, citing the health care law. Although he promised that he would help the House pass piece-meal legislation that could then lead to a full bill, this hasn't happened, in part because of the shutdown pushed by Senators Cruz and Lee. The recent rule-change in the House making it so only Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) or his designee can bring legislation for a vote makes it much less likely immigration reform happens before the 2014 midterms. (And lest one be tempted to see immigration reform as a "Democrats-only" initiative, remember that the Senate bill won the support for LDS Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), no Democrats in any sense.)

The Farm Bill and immigration reform are just two items needed (in addition to raising the debt ceiling and funding basic government functions) to keep our country creaking along. To create solid middle-class jobs and support the next generation of innovators, our nation needs to be doing and building things. This includes restoring funding to scientific research hit hard by the sequester and shuttered during the current shutdown (we're losing important medical data from research mice as long as the government stays shut down). It also includes rolling back the cuts to HeadStart  and better supporting early childhood education. And it includes continuing the nation's long investment in supporting entrepreneurs and businesses, which involves programs like the Small Business Administration's loan program.

When the government is shut down, we can't even fix what's obviously wrong, like the government's procurement procedures for information technology.

We need our nation open for research, for education, for business, so we can discover, learn, and innovate. When we focus on taking our country "back" we lose sight of what makes it great, of people working together, sharing ideas, and figuring out how to make it so the members of the next generation--all of them--can have equal opportunity to learn, to be healthy, to pursue happiness. Shutdown governing is a no-good way to run a country.

I am not a big fan of using scriptures in these kinds of discussions (it reminds me too much of the Bible-bashing green missionaries sometimes do), but considering this comes from a "declaration considering governments and laws in general," I found this apt:
"We believe that every [person] should be honored in [their] station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all [persons] owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between [one] and [another]; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by [us] to [our] Maker."

We mortals are fallible and imperfect, so the laws we make will be fallible and imperfect. But we have a duty to study laws and their impact, to improve them so they better serve our sisters and brothers, our fellow citizens and residents, to "[regulate] our [respective] interests." Such is the stuff of life in a democratic republic. Re-opening offices and paying our bills, while crucial for staving off further economic turmoil, is the bare minimum of our duty, and the beginning of the work ahead of us.

(Image courtesy of Joe Heller at the Denver Post.)

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