The Federal Shutdown: who should pay?

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?

5 thoughts on “The Federal Shutdown: who should pay?

  1. Nothing was gained by the government shutdown but ill will. Lorenzo, to answer your first question, “The Federal Shutdown: who should pay?”, the Republicans responsible should have their total salaries garnished for the foreseeable future to put towards the $24 billion debt that they incurred.

    It’s great that certain philanthropists came to the aid of some government programs during the shutdown.

    But it’s sad that we live in a country where a handful of Republican billionaires are destroying what our democracy is supposed to be about. Who are bankrolling the campaigns of Tea Party extremists to annul the Affordable Care Act law passed four years ago by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, undermining the people who elected Obama through the democratic process in the 2012 election when it was a key issue.

    The Healthcare Reform Bill is a godsend, a blessing for those who have been continually gouged by the health insurance companies. These companies have ruined many American lives. It’s been a long time coming. Amen, to Health Care Reform!

    Susan Bernhardt
    The Ginseng Conspiracy coming 1/14 to your favorite online bookstore.

    1. Susan, thanks for responding. I agree the Healthcare Reform Act is much needed and will benefit millions of Americans. I believe the Shutdown did nothing more than show a government at its worst. If we had withheld payments to Congress the way it stopped paying families of our fallen heroes, the Shutdown would not have happened.

  2. I hadn’t heard about the private loans that kept some key programs going and applaud those individuals who stepped in. Why should it be anything but a loan?
    The shutdown as well as the debt ceiling threats are nothing short of disgraceful. The whole thing was embarrassing in so many levels that I would have a hard time even trying to list them all.
    The $24 Billion cost to the economy was the price the nation paid to keep Boehner as Speaker to the house. He knew that bringing the issue to a vote would (a) stop the shutdown and (b) lose him the speaker-ship. So he opted for self interest as do almost every member of congress [They spend most of their time raising funds for their next campaign and many avail themselves of those funds for personal use]
    Stopping the payment of survivor benefits underscores one of the most puzzling aspects of Congress and in particular of the Republican party: they cannot thank our soldiers for their service enough, they honor them, they call them heroes and yet, when they return hurt or maimed and complain (ie., PTSD, agent orange, Gulf war syndrome) they are branded malingerers. I keep seeing ads for organizations and ‘charities’ that show struggling, maimed veterans, and I ask myself how it is possible that the same government that puts them in harm’s way doesn’t take care of their every need when they are hurt?
    This phenomenon is symptomatic of the people that govern us, the people that we send to Washington. They do a different math when they send them to fight that they do later, when budgets become more important. They fail to see these vary basic connections.
    It doesn’t surprise me though: who are they? What do they know? I recently wrote a blog on precisely this subject, “What does a statesman need to know” after reading about the Dulles brothers.

    1. Jim, thanks for your articulate and clear response. While I usually take a neutral stand in my blogs, I hope to provoke comments on both sides of an issue. On a personal level, I agree with you. I feel it’s unconscionable to withhold payments to those who have fought for our country and to spend $24 billion in the meantime arguing about healthcare reform and our debt ceiling.

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