Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Government shutdowns, tax refund checks and the McRib

March 14, 2011 by Shock and Awe


When the time came to sign the proposed Constitution, three of the delegates present famously dissented, refusing to sign what they considered a flawed document. In that spirit, Constitution Daily proudly introduces “Dissenters’ Corner,” featuring periodic posts of opposing viewpoints on today’s news and tomorrow’s public scandals. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who cares? You decide.

This week's post: Government shutdown

Recently, much has been made of the current budget showdown in Congress. How much will funding be reduced? Which agencies will be eliminated or drastically reduced and should they be eliminated or drastically reduced at all? Does the need for budget cuts justify a government shutdown?

The discussion is a mixture of high political drama and temporary budget resolutions. The deadline for closure keeps on moving, while the debate continues with no end in sight. Some advocate for a shutdown showdown and others argue such a thing would be an abandonment of responsibility. This is the question that conflicts our dear Shock and Awe: Should Congress keep government running while they work out a budget deal, or should they shut it down to force the issue?


Shut It Down. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting with special interest lobbyists – most of whom are lawyers – you’ve experienced firsthand how the world will surely come to an end if we didn’t provide tax breaks for the pork producers who bless us every spring with the ingredients for the McRib; or build the new F-22 that even Secretary Gates doesn’t want.

Our spending – both necessary and unnecessary – has gotten out of control. We can’t spend our way out of it like Obama wants, and we can’t cut our way out of it like Boehner wants. We have to shut it down, stop the hemorrhaging and get serious. It’s time for drastic measures. It’s time we all feel the urgency of Preserving, Protecting and Defending our future generations from a mountain of debt. It’s time for both Congress and the special interest lawyers to make the hard choices. In a Hamlet v. Henry VI showdown, my money’s on good old Henry. “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”


Keep It Running. Regardless of one's view of the size and scope of government, and the current size and state of its finances, government is a crucial part of everyday life for America and its closure would be an abdication of Congress's responsibility to Preserve, Protect and Defend. Americans abhor the current debt, but Americans need to be able to get a passport to go overseas.

We question the authority of our government but no doubt need its ability to police our shores and keep us from harm. We want transparency and the curtailing of special interests but need the tax refund checks that accompany a tax code with many different tax breaks. We're complicated. We want what we want in the abstract and need an open and operating government to get it..


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