Let’s stop applauding irresponsible government

A government shutdown should never be used as a bargaining chip. Politicians who create scenarios that will shut down the government unless their demands are met are not heroes. They’re blackmailers. They’re playing with the lives of the American people as though we are worth nothing.

Who does a shutdown hurt? The people. Obviously, people who work directly for the government are directly affected. But so are all the businesses that rely on government contracts, and the people who work for those businesses. The government-funded services that are cut back, and the people who depend on them. The improvement projects that are put on hold or canceled, and the people who live in communities that are going downhill.

Cutting off funding to governmental organizations or organizations that depend on government money also means that those organizations can’t plan their budgets, which means they can’t add jobs or purchase in bulk. This means they waste money purchasing at full price while their organization actually shrinks.

Is “the government” an enemy that is hurt by this loss of funding, that we can feel proud to punish? No. The government is not an entity that we have to fight. The government is how we, the people, manage the things we all need: safety, roads, schools, mail, other services. At least, it’s supposed to be. When we view “the government” as an enemy, we not only oversimplify the issue, we excuse our own culpability in the nation’s problems.

So who, other than the people, is a shutdown punishing? Does it really hurt our members of Congress for the government to shut down? No, of course not. Not only are they paid handsomely, many of them are independently wealthy. That’s why it’s easy for them to not worry about passing a proper budget for years and years.

Does a shutdown hurt the president? Assuming he’s the enemy (and not the publicly-elected “CEO” of our country), will the shutdown hit him where it hurts? Well, it might make him look bad, but that’s about it. That “win” is nothing compared to the effect the shutdown has on the American people.

Government shutdown tactics are a political maneuver taken by cowards and bullies who can’t accept not getting their way. These legislators don’t care about the people. If they did, they would stop worrying about passing federal mandates on social issues or fighting losing battles and instead work on improving quality of life for the average American. A real representative of the people would focus on incentivizing better jobs and wages, on improving public spaces, on making sure budgets are planned and balanced and funded like clockwork.

But all these people care about is keeping their own jobs. If they do something “boring” like simply keeping the government running, it might not be exciting enough. And if they change something and it doesn’t work, they might get voted out of office. So they try to get us fired up on issues they know can never be resolved. They cast themselves as heroes in ideological wars. They make it look like they’re accomplishing something, when really they’re doing absolutely nothing.

This behavior from people who are supposed to represent the needs of everyone, and not just themselves, is inexcusable. We need to stop excusing it.