Along with union-busting bills, birther bills, and defunding critical agencies, services and programs, there’s a steady march by some Republicans, including potential GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), to force a government shut-down if they don’t get their way on budget cuts.
Despite the House GOP leaderships’ denial that the GOP is seeking a shut-down, there is a growing trend in their ranks of not listening to it’s leadership.
As the threat of a government shutdown looms over the nation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have repeatedly and forcefully denied that rank-and-file Republicans are calling for a closure. (Think Progress has documented at least 10 House GOPers who have defied the leadership’s wishes and come out in support of a potential closure.) [….]
Shutting down the government for a month as Pawlenty referred to is a dangerous road to travel; especially in our current economy. The GOP forced a government shut-down 20 years ago. After 40 years of Democratic control, Republicans won the House in 1994. In late 1995 – early 1996, Republicans disagreed with President Clinton over budget cuts and forced a 20-day shut-down of the federal government. Then, like now, the underlying goal was to win back the White House in the 1996 presidential election by creating an unbearable situation in the economy and blame it on President Clinton. It didn’t work. President Clinton won a second term in 1996.
The shut-down in 1995/1996 unnecessarily hurt hundreds of thousands of Americans caught in the crossfire. Federal agencies were forced to cease operations and stopped paying workers:
For more than 20 days, about 260,000 federal employees in the D.C. area stayed home, or reported for duty only to be sent packing hours later. Security guards roamed the halls forcing out workers who lingered, and some frustrated feds sought temporary jobs as bike messengers and servers at restaurants to pay holiday bills … Agencies retroactively paid workers once the doors reopened, but many government contractors – paid separately by private employers – earned nothing during the shutdown.[….]
In December 1995, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment rate at 5.6 percent for all workers. The highest levels of the unemployed were African-Americans at 10.2 percent and Hispanics at 9.2 percent. Currently, unemployment rates have declined during the past two months, and our overall unemployment rate is at 9.0 percent (January 2011). African-Americans and Hispanic workers are still among the highest percentage of the unemployed and are well into the double digits.
A government shut-down lasting 20-30 days would deal a crushing blow with a domino effect reaching beyond federal employees in Washington DC (as it did 20 years ago).
Veterans won’t get their benefit checks (including health and welfare). Processing social security claims will cease. National parks, zoos, museums and monuments will close. Anyone whose salary is connected with the federal government in some way will be impacted by a shut-down. Federal aid to states will be shut off leaving states to fend for themselves with an already bulging budget shortfall. Federal work on bankruptcy cases will stop (3,500 cases were put on hold in 1995).
Twenty years ago, 368 national parks service sites, including national museums and monuments were closed, adversely effecting the employees and cutting off vital tourist dollars. Also, 200,000 passport applications were not processed and the tourism industry and airlines reported millions of dollars in losses. [….]
The cut off of tourist dollars will have a much greater impact now compared to the winter of 1995/1996. Revolutions and unrest in North Africa and the Middle East have driven the price of oil up over $100 a barrel. Airlines have increased fares by $20-30 to counter the rise in fuel costs. There is nothing they can do to counter a loss in tourism and travel due to a government shut-down. Reducing fares to generate business in that scenario would cause airlines to run at a loss. No doubt, many airline employees would be furloughed.
The question we all need to ask is: Can we afford to go without a month’s worth of wages? Will an already tight-fisted bank, wary over the housing market slump, allow us to skip mortgage payments until after the government re-opens, the paperwork is done and we get our back wages? Foreclosure proceedings will rise impacting those who otherwise could have continued to pay their mortgage.
The GOP rushed to give the ultra-rich tax cuts for the next ten years. And now they’re holding a gun to our heads trying to make us pay the $4 trillion they added to the national deficit by those tax cuts. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner’s response to cutting 1+ million jobs as outlined in their budget proposal – “so be it.”
I wonder what would happen to GOP lawmakers if they handled their personal finances the same way they do public finances. Picture them holding a “gun” to their spouses’ head saying if you don’t do as I say about spending, I’ll cut you off. There would be a spike in Washington divorce rates, coupled with a sucking sound of the depletion of their personal assets and bank accounts – on and off-shore. Their spouses wouldn’t put up with that kind of drama so why should we?
While we try to figure out how to put gas in our cars, food on our tables and pay the bills, we want the GOP to stop the drama and get serious about jobs and the economy. Shutting down the government won’t balance the budget. Instead, it will send our economy spiraling downward. And the GOP still won’t have a rock star candidate to run in 2012.