A Sense Of The Historic Arc: Government Shutdown Edition

First of all let me start by saying that it sucks whenever anyone who is willing and able to work gets sent home through no fault of their own.  Bob Smith who does accounting at the WallaWalla Department of Agricultural Whatnottery, Region 15, Secition 9, is neither the cause of nor the controller of Governmental tectonic shifts.  Don’t dump on the guy.  Save your vitriol for the suits that endeavor to drive the beast.  (Or you can dump on the ones who do the truly repugnant as a main parcel of their job duties, like the TSA’s serial gropers.  Ironically, a service deemed “essential”.)

Also let me say that no man is an island.  The shutdown has seriously hosed my homestead’s finances.  It makes me wish I was as isolationist as my Amish neighbors.  (Then again I like beer and swearing so that would never work.  Also I could rock an Amish beard but Mrs. Curmudgeon vetoed the idea.)  Taking a financial hit sucks; especially when it comes from external forces.

Finally let me say that things that suck happen all the time and… well that sucks too.

Now lets get to the point.

  1. This has happened before.
  2. It will happen again.
  3. For many people it sucks when it happens; which has no bearing whatsoever on #1 or #2.

Here’s another concept.  Everyone seems to be concerned with which party will be blamed for the shutdown.  There appears to be a tacit understanding that blame is certain and credit is impossible.  (This is, of course, another example of our unbiased press at work.)

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that blame and causality are more or less unrelated.  Meaning it’s one thing to foment a shutdown and another thing to get blamed for it and the two may or may not be related.  At the moment I can’t turn on my truck’s radio without Pravda NPR whining that this is caused by gruesome illiterate hillbilly tea partiers in flyover country who are too stupid to submit to the better judgment of their intellectual superiors.  Apparently it’s totally inconceivable that it could be caused by scarcity of resources.  In some circles, nothing from the rising of the sun to the death of a songbird happens on this earth without one of two parties to be blamed or lauded.

I disagree.  Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  In those cases either one viewpoint crushes the other or a compromise is reached.  So far neither party can crush the other and as yet there is no compromise.  Just as it takes two to Tango, it takes at least one of them to not Tango and neither party seems to be immune to shutdowns on their watch.  Historically each party has had their hands on the reins during shutdowns.  I’m not the only one saying as much.  Here’s a quote from Charles C. W. Cooke (link goes to his article):

“Of the 17 shutdowns in America’s history, Democrats controlled the House during 15 and had charge of both chambers during eight. Five shutdowns happened under unified government! This makes sense. Government shutdowns are caused by legitimate and welcome disagreement between equal branches. They are certainly more likely to happen in divided government, but it is not a prerequisite.”

Then just to get a sense of how normal or abnormal our current budgetary kerfluffle might be I’m putting up a little table I found at NBC News.  (Note: The formatting is a bit dodgy and I’m too lazy to fix it.  Click on the link to see it better.  You should be clicking the occasional link anyway.  How else would you know I’m not inventing it from whole cloth?  The press, of course, is apparently immune to that last admonition.)


Year        Beginning date            Length in Days     Ending date
(at midnight)

1976        Thursday, Sept 30        10                         Monday, Oct 11

1977        Friday, Sept 30             12                         Thursday, Oct 13
Monday, Oct 31              8                         Wednesday, Nov 9
Wednesday, Nov 30       8                         Friday, Dec 9

1978        Saturday, Sept 30         17                        Wednesday, Oct18

1979        Sunday, Sept 30            11                        Friday, Oct 12

1981        Friday, Nov 20                 2                        Monday, Nov 23

1982        Thursday, Sept 30           1                        Saturday, Oct 2
Friday, Dec 17                 3                        Tuesday, Dec 21

1983        Thursday, Nov 10            3                        Monday, Nov 14

1984        Sunday, Sept 30             2                        Wednesday, Oct 3
Wednesday, Oct 3          1                        Friday, Oct 5

1986        Thursday, Oct 16            1                        Saturday, Oct 18

1987        Friday, Dec 18                1                         Sunday, Dec 20

1990        Friday, Oct 5                   3                         Tuesday, Oct 9

1995        Monday, Nov 13             5                         Sunday, Nov 19
Friday, Dec 15                21                 Saturday, Jan 6, 1996

Do you see what I see? I see a more or less steady series of shutdowns on a periodic cycle of one to five years.  Seventeen shutdowns in all.  This, the eighteenth shutdown, is notable not for existing but coming some 18 years behind schedule.

Shutdowns aren’t good management but they’re not the apocalypse either.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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