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Horowitz: The big lie behind fearing a federal shutdown
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Horowitz: The big lie behind fearing a federal shutdown

What is the purpose of a federal government?

Aside from the 50 state governments, there are more than 3,000 county governments, 19,000 municipalities, roughly 16,000 townships and over 12,000 independent school districts, according to the U.S. Census. There are also more than 37,000 special districts, such as water authorities, parks districts, and other public entities that perform vital functions and are under the auspices of town and county governments. Why exactly do we need a federal government if it subverts our national security, orchestrates an invasion, and targets political opponents?

If the federal government is malfeasant in its few necessary functions, isn’t that the ultimate form of a government shutdown? And if confronting that malfeasance in the budget induces a temporary lapse in some of its operations, what exactly are we missing?

In terms of the purpose of a national government, James Madison answered the question long ago. Writing in Federalist 46, Madison envisioned the federal government involved in “external objects,” such as “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” All matters of “internal order” were left to the states. So if our own government is actively inviting millions of foreign nationals, primarily young belligerent military-age males from as far as Africa, to crash our border, what could be more important than forcing the federal government to stop orchestrating this invasion? Shouldn’t the effort to solve this grave shutdown of the federal government supersede any effort to avoid a temporary lapse of its treacherous operations?

The reason Republican leaders are terrified to fight on a single issue of substance is that they have a maniacal fear of a supposed government shutdown. But that is akin to being afraid to put a brain cancer patient to sleep to remove the tumor. There is no purpose to keeping the federal government open if some of these existential problems are not redressed.

Remember, what we potentially face on October 1 is not a government shutdown. It’s a partial federal shutdown. Every one of those local government units remains open. Nearly all the functions people care about will still operate. Ironically, operations like the Department of Homeland Security flying in illegal aliens to airports using the CBP One app will be shut down, which is something we should celebrate.

Why then are Republicans so obsessed with avoiding any temporary lapse in funding as a consequence of performing the budgetary surgery that must be done?

How many of you remember your children being home sinking into clinical depression during the past few federal shutdowns? Who in America recalls missing family funerals and weddings or closing businesses, churches, and all forms of recreation during the last government shutdown nearly five years ago? Oh, that’s right. Such horrific and inhumane policies never occurred during any federal shutdown. It was the government itself that shut us down in 2020.

So, again, would House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) like to explain why we should care more about a temporary and partial federal shutdown than about the more systemic shutdown of the underpinnings of the social contract between us and the federal leviathan?

It's hard to determine which is more of an emergent problem — the border numbers or the debt numbers. They are both unsustainable and are both destroying society and the economy right now and in the foreseeable future.

Customs and Border Protection is releasing as many as 5,000 of these unknown border crashers (predominantly males hailing from more than 100 countries) into the nation’s interior nearly every day. That’s an annualized pace of 1.8 million, and those are just the ones who surrender to the authorities. Even New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said the invasion is destroying his city and must stop. Yet the Biden administration is fighting Texas physically and legally to block the state’s efforts to stem the flow.

I don’t think any policymaker has given serious consideration to the long-term consequences that millions of impoverished, desperate, and often criminal elements will wreak upon our culture, education, health, and public safety. That issue alone should warrant an intractable budget fight with no regard for the so-called collateral damage of a lapse in funding.

The shocking nature of the border numbers is matched only by the debt figures. This past month, the amount we paid on interest on the debt was just $4 billion shy of the cost of the entire Medicaid program for August! We will never reclaim our standard of living from just a few years ago until this degree of debt issuance and money printing is halted.

So, what is the GOP’s plan to reopen the government — you know, the one James Madison intended? Or how about just the post-constitutional shell of that government we lived with until just a few years ago? Is the Republican stratagem to simply wait for a GOP win in 2024? Even in the best-case scenario where Republicans take back the White House and control both houses of Congress, they will still lack 60 votes in the Senate.

Without any willingness to articulate a strong position on righteous ideas over a budget deadline, the Republicans will never accomplish anything. That is why the 2017-2019 GOP trifecta control was an utter joke. We were force-fed the worst budgets ever — policies that set the stage for the debt bomb from which we suffer today.

Besides, we are out of time and can’t wait until 2025 to tackle these problems. We can’t let the war on energy, biomedical security fascism, transgender castration, and the targeting of political opponents go unanswered. It was for this exact moment that Madison believed the “power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon” members of the House can leverage “for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

To fund the status quo — the existing shutdown of constitutional government, the social compact, and American rights — for a second beyond midnight Oct. 1 would consummate the ultimate shutdown of government we should all fear. The pending back-paid vacation for some federal workers, on the other hand, will go unnoticed. We lived through the worst lockdowns in global history, which got us to this unhappy position. We can certainly live through a federal slowdown to rectify the ultimate shutdown.

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