John McGinnis and I have an op ed on government shutdowns in today’s Wall Street Journal. We note that government shutdowns typically have involved Democratic Presidents and Republican Congresses, and that Republican Congresses have usually both lost the fight and borne the brunt of the blame. We note that “President Clinton faced off against House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, and Mr. Clinton won. President Obama dueled with the Republican House in 2013 and Mr. Obama won.”
While politicians and the media have recognized that the Republicans generally lose these fights, what is not generally appreciated is that it is the current legal regime that has largely allowed the Democrats to win. At present, when there is a spending dispute and spending authority terminates, most government spending (with the exception of entitlement programs and essential services) ceases. As a result the public bears serious inconveniences, which are easily blamed on the Republicans, since their “smaller-government message” can be “portrayed as aiming to deprive the public of government services.”
Democrats and Republicans, by entering and exiting the 2013 “government shutdown” without regard to America’s traditional Constitutional practices, practically instituted among us the European practice of single “crisis” votes that enable or disable governments. The remedy lies in removing any doubt as to what the US Constitution means.
Come tomorrow or whatever, the government may not open. (They’re closing down all “non-essential” offices, such as the Department of State: we’ll be leading from way behind. Any office that doles out money will remain open.) Soon in this theater: the debt ceiling, and more needless contretemps. The easy solution comes (as often) from my buddy Alex Pollock. In this case, he cheerfully concedes that the idea wasn’t his but President Eisenhower’s, way back in 1954: In order to keep making payments, the Treasury increased its gold certificate deposits at the Federal Reserve, which it could do from its dollar “profits”…