Shutdown Hysteria

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

To listen to the apocalyptic talk out of Washington D.C., you would think the government shutdown was causing and or going to cause mass chaos and irreparable harm and damage to every, single living thing and how they function, including, but not limited to, the sex lives of screwworms.

Pause here for a moment. Number one: yes, there is such a thing as a screwworm. Number two: yes, your hard-earned tax dollars have been spent putting their sex life under a microscope. Number three: yes, the federal government studying the sex lives of screwworms is ripe for puns, parodies and double entendres, but no, I won’t go there.

Far be it from me to besmirch the randy screwworm, however, I am wondering if the shutdown is really affecting people (or even copulating screwworms) as badly as the media loves to report?

A recent Pew Survey showed less then a third of Americans said the shutdown has impacted their lives. For the vast majority of us, there is absolutely no impact whatsoever. And for those the shutdown does affect the President has gone out of his way, to find a way to make the shutdown as painful as possible. Like closing down the World War II Memorial for the remaining veterans who took "honor flights" to come see the memorial before they died.

Every day, on TV and in the paper, there are stories about who is affected by the shutdown, one more dramatic then the next. But, understand, that’s not the reality, that’s just the nature of news. Far from being creative or actually journalists, most mainstream reporters never bother to investigate whether the government programs we do have are even necessary. Instead, the dysfunctional newsroom antics go like this: "It’s a shutdown!" newsroom editors and producers bellow, "Go out and find me somebody who’s impacted! Find me screaming women and crying babies! Find collapsing buildings! Find me someone who will blame Republicans! It’s day 16 and we need a fresh angle!" I may have taken a touch of creative licensing here, but as a former TV reporter and anchor, that’s pretty much how it goes.

But if the majority of media would poke its head past its liberal bias, they would see an extremely compelling story: most Americans don’t need the federal government and states, if they had governors who took their job seriously, could take on most of the work of the federal government and/or many programs administered and mandated by the federal government could be done away with completely.

To point to both the over exaggeration in the media and the refusal to even question the need for various aspects of government: take a recent Philadelphia Inquirer on how local micro-brewers have been stalled in bringing new microbrews to the market because of the shutdown. But let’s take a closer look: the government has been shut down for less than a month – how stalled could microbrewers be at bringing a new product to market? One microbrewer said it could take months or even a year to get a new brew to market even if the government were open. So are microbrewers really that effected? Plus, I can’t imagine the federal government is any more involved, laborious or slow moving when it comes to beer or liquor in PA then the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Second, why is the federal government involved in microbrews at all and more importantly, why is the U.S. Treasury the agency overseeing it? The U.S. Treasury has a division called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB for short) that sticks its nose in almost all aspects of microbrewing from the label, to the branding to the "inspection" of new brews. Tough job.

Here’s the great irony, while TTB has a "we’re closed" sign on its website a local ABC News affiliate reported when it called the TTB, a worker answered and then abruptly hung up the phone because, she told the reporter, the government was closed. So the federal government is paying people to pick up the phone to let people know they are not working. Huh. Wouldn’t a busy signal or some elevator music that we usually encounter when trying to call a government agency suffice?

And in a twist that will make you smirk and steam all at once, the TTB is not processing new applications for microbrews to come to market…but they are processing the taxes and fees they collected the the existing one.

And then there is the issue of national parks. Forget the pettiness of President Obama shutting down the World War II Monument to Veterans. President Obama even shut down Independence Hall, Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell and Valley Forge Park.

Why does the federal government need to even have its hands on these historic landmarks? Washington Crossing Park and Mount Vernon and numerous other national historical sites across the country are not run by the federal government.

Independence Hall has stood since before even Washington came to town. The building and its inhabitants survived the Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and even Hitler and Mussolini during World War II, all without any help from the federal government. Heck, it even survived being managed by the city of Philadelphia for a time. But, Independence Hall just couldn’t survive New Deal Liberalism and under the Truman Administration, the parks were federalized.

But why? The states could and should run historic landmarks. And some Governors are doing just that. The Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker told the federal government to take a hike when it tried to close down some historic sites in Wisconsin. He said the federal government had overstepped its authority and the Governor, without any federal help, mandated the sites be re-opened and managed by the State of Wisconsin. Now that’s leadership! And where is Governor Corbett on this? Silent as usual. Or maybe he’s too busy taking federal dollars to expand a broken and immoral Medicaid system to a million more people in Pennsylvania to notice the federal government isn’t working.

Another great irony here? Governor Corbett is out in the press fretting the federal shutdown could impact social services, while at the same time taking the previously mentioned federal dollars to expand social services…of which he says the federal government can now not pay.

So maybe there are two lessons from the government shutdown.

First, this so called "government spending" is only about 17 percent of federal government and it’s really not impacting our lives that much. Maybe we as Americans need to become more vocal in shouting from the rooftops (and at politicians) that we do not need or want the federal government involved in all aspects of society and life and a 17 percent trim down might be a good thing. Because while less then a third are impacted by the shutdown, a Bloomberg poll showed 61 % of Americans want to see federal spending cut if the debt ceiling is raised.

Second, I think there are a lot of people impacted by a long and delayed shutdown – big government spenders. The politicians who like to take our money and tell us how to live only to find out we can actually go on living just find without their big government agenda. For many politicians, the longer the shutdown goes on and the more people become aware of how the federal government doesn’t impact our lives, the worse it is for the Modern "new Deal – Government is Everything to Everybody" Liberals. And maybe that’s a good thing.

You can find Jennifer Stefano on twitter at @stefanospeaks or at