The Shutdown as Opportunity to Shrink Government

Democrats and the media—but I repeat—are moving into full panic-mongering mode about the continuing government shutdown. NBC News reports this morning that we could be facing “economic doomsday” if the shutdown continues for several more weeks. I immediately went into the body of the story to see who or what evidence was cited in support of this apocalypse, and found to no surprise the solitary testimony of Mark Zandi, a leading liberal economist:

The country would face an economic hellscape if the government shutdown lasts “months or even years,” as the president has suggested it might, experts tell NBC News.

The doomsday scenario might be unlikely — the longest the federal government has ever shut down is 21 days, a record that will fall if the current closure lasts until Saturday — but it is chilling. “We’ll be in no man’s land,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told NBC News. . .

If the standoff persists — talks blew up at the White House on Wednesday — and Congress and President Donald Trump can’t reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling in a few months, “it’s game over — you’ll have a pretty severe recession,” Zandi said, adding that given the trade war with China, and Brexit looming, “you could start seeing some pretty dark scenarios” worldwide.

First of all, did Zandi just assume the economy’s gender (no “man’s” land)?

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders seem determined to steal the mantle as the Stupid Party away from Republicans by emphasizing that the shutdown is imposing hardships on federal workers! That’s not a bug—that’s a feature. Smarter liberals like Damon Linker perceive what a blunder this is:

In this fight, the Democrats would seem to have the edge. . . But that doesn’t mean the Democrats won’t blow it. The surest way for them to do so would be to keep on their present path of emphasizing that the government must be reopened because of how the shutdown is hurting federal workers. . .

Focusing on the suffering of these employees during the shutdown, however humane it might be, tacitly confirms this [Republican] narrative by making it look like the primary concern of the Democratic Party is the plight of federal workers rather than the good of the country as a whole.

When you’re the party of government, it’s hard not to side with your posse. For Democrats, the good of the government is the good of the country. Full stop.

Given Trump’s penchant for saying the outrageous, I’d love to have him say something like: “Look, I want to shrink the government, and most of those government workers are Democrats anyway, so if they want to quit their jobs and find jobs in the private sector, it sounds like a win-win to me.”

So we’re hearing that air traffic controllers are starting to call in sick and might abandon their posts, with obvious consequences for civilian air travel. Hmmm. . . Do air traffic controllers really want to go there? They must have short memories of Ronald Reagan firing 15,000 illegally striking controllers in 1981, and instead of bringing civilian air travel to a halt, Reagan sent military controllers into the towers. Regular schedules were restored within days. You can easily imagine Trump doing this—and it would be a much more fitting use of the emergency powers he’s been thinking of trying to use to build the wall.

More than that, why not go all the way and simply privatize air traffic control as Canada did more than two decades ago? (In fact, some smaller airports in the U.S. do in fact contract out their local air traffic control functions rather than use the FAA.) The airlines would likely be enthusiastic about such as move, as there is good evidence that Canada’s air traffic control works better than ours, at considerably lower cost.

And then let’s throw TSA into the briar patch while we’re at it. There are breathless headlines that TSA security officers are starting to call in sick, with the threat that this could turn our security theater at the airport into a dark not-so-comedy. Miami’s airport is already making plans to close down one concourse.

This is a golden opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of the TSA madness. Airlines and airports have the option to opt-out of TSA and provide security screen themselves or with a private contractor. I imagine that if we got rid of the TSA’s bureaucrats, we’d end up with a much more efficient and effective security screening process at airports. Moreover, because of the variation that would come about, it would be better at providing the “unpredictability” that the government says it tries to present to would-be terrorists, but everyone knows this is a joke as conducted by TSA right now.

I rather like the proposal Charles Murray floated a few years back: imagine if you had a choice between an airline that ran you through the standard TSA security process, or an airline that ran you quickly through a metal detector, but then as the last step at the boarding gate, had you file past a couple of retired New York homicide detectives. Which would you choose? That’s a no-brainer.

As a frequent flyer—over 110,000 miles last year—I say: go ahead TSA, make my day. Please do walk off the job so we can be rid of you. (NB: I believe the executive branch could effect both of these large changes without legislation from Congress.)

I’m liking this shutdown more and more every day.

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