The Federal Shutdown
When I came to this country, escaping Fidel’s communism, America was the epitome of democracy where political parties with opposite ideologies could coexist and work together toward a common goal. I didn’t know then that one day I’d see American democracy at its most dysfunctional. I’m talking about the federal government shutdown, affecting many programs and people in this country. Although the Shutdown is over, I wonder what was gained by it and how the country will be affected in the long haul.
Some pundits believe the Shutdown resulted in President Obama and the Democrats getting nearly everything they asked for and the Republican Party getting next to nothing. Or worse than nothing: Obamacare.
When the Shutdown was over, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared his caucus had “fought the good fight” but lost.
In contrast, Tea Party champion Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “It was a remarkable victory to see the House engage in a profile of courage,”.
Cruz’s response is not surprising, says David Weigel in Slate magazine. “Human beings have been putting their best spin on defeats since the invention of ‘winning’ and ‘losing,'” so of course Tea Party Republicans “are going to look for the Alamo underneath the rubble of this loss.”
Putting aside winners or losers, let’s focus on shuttered government programs that were rescued by gifts from small and big donors during the Shutdown.
One of the gifts that called my attention while the Shutdown was limping along was the $10 million provided by Texans Laura and John Arnold to continue Head Start programs.
And other programs were also benefiting from private donations. The Fisher House Foundation joined other donors and worked with the Department of Defense to ensure a timely payout of survivor benefits to families of fallen service members. The Arnolds made it clear they did not want the government to think philanthropists should step in to provide payments and made their contribution a loan that must be paid back. Fisher House also expects to be repaid.
The trend for private support for government program is nothing new. Local, state, and federal governments have been relying for many years on charitable gifts to supplement public services underwritten by our taxes.
Rick Cohen of The Nonprofit Quarterly observed that today there seems to be a charitable arm for every federal agency, from the Centers for Disease Control to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Public libraries’ budgets are often supplemented by a “Friends of the Public Library” organization. And city’s parks-and-recreation departments have charitable foundations attached to them. Public school’s extracurricular activities also rely on fundraising efforts from parents and students to meet heir financial obligations.
By ending the Shutdown, our government averted a fiscal collapse that would have crippled our economy for generations to come. America’s problems are not over. Much legislation is still pending, including the much talked about Immigration Bill. Furthermore the debate about our debt ceiling is far from over. Each of those topics merits a separate blog. For now, let’s stay with philanthropists rescuing government programs.
What do you think the responsibility of private donors should be in case of a future Shutdown?
Which programs do you think private donations should rescue?
Do you think it’s wrong of the Arnolds and the Fisher House Foundation to consider their “bailout” a loan rather and a gift?