It is still not clear whether we might have a “government shutdown” because of dissent among House Republicans on our mangled budget process, but it is worth repeating something that has been pointed out before: the hysteria over a “government shutdown” is overdone.
Think back to past government shutdown: Were your local schools still open? Did your local police still patrol the streets, and were your state and local courts still open and functioning? For that matter, did you still get your mail delivered? (Yes you did, in case you have forgotten.) The point is, there are something like 50,000 government units in America, ranging from your local mosquito abatement district up through state government to the federal government. Although the federal government is the largest government unit, it is only one among our 50,000 government jurisdictions, many of which are more important to our day-to-day lives than the federal government is. In fact, even a federal government “shutdown” doesn’t mean no federal government at all (kind of like Prohibition that way); Social Security checks still get sent out, and other “essential” services, like our military in the field, continue.
The always reliable Dan Henninger notes this in his Wall Street Journal column yesterday:
Two related questions. If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound? Ergo, if the federal government shuts down this weekend, will anyone notice? . . .
We understand the concern about paychecks not going out to Border Patrol agents and the like, but the government-shutdown scenario usually evokes images of Washington itself turning into a ghost town.
Guess what? It’s already empty.
Of the nearly 300,000 federal workers in Washington, most aren’t bothering to show up these days at those great stone buildings that people think of as “Washington.” A post-pandemic report this summer by the Government Accountability Office found that 17 of the federal headquarters buildings surveyed were at 25% or less capacity.
I used to think that government shutdowns were mostly a pointless sideshow, but I’m growing more enthusiastic. Especially since, when the government “re-opens,” no one will much notice that either.
Meanwhile, if the government is shutting down, your humble foreign correspondent is staying on the job: