The repercussions of the government shutdown were easy to spot from day one. 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, and although they eventually received back pay, it’s very easy to see a situation play out which involved long, tedious court cases. However, the truly scary part of the shutdown was the hit the private sector took. A report released by the white house has found that the creation of roughly 120,000 jobs of were lost in the private sector.[i] Another report from the white house listed off all the things which failed to happen due to the shutdown[ii] such as delaying home loan decisions for low income families, shut down astronomy research, suspended permits being granted to small business, etc. Granted there are a lot of things on this list which the government, and only the government can do; however, the programs listed, as well as many others on the report are things that can be done by non-governmental agencies/private individuals. Yet the federal government took on those duties, becoming bigger and ensnaring different parts of our country that can be handled by private institutions.
Many people will immediately jump out of their seats, point at their computers and accuse me of putting too much faith in the private sector. “Look at Enron or GE” they might yell, finger aquiver. To which I say yes, different parts of the private sector can fail and occasionally bigger parts will fail. However, is that a reason to quickly put all our eggs in one basket, allowing the government to handle everything? More and more it seems like the government is not viewed as a possible solution to a problem when things go wrong, but as the only option there is; which, of course leads to more government intervention, more control, and a harder fall if the government does ever fail.
However, various recent articles have been quick to jump to the recent decline in government workers as a way of pointing out that the government is not actually as blotted as others may think. Looking at the numbers the number of federal employees has gone down. Whether it be due to budget cuts, people quitting due to job dissatisfaction[iii], or honestly any other reason, there has been a decline in federal workers(the most recent one, no doubt is taking into account the government shutdown);[iv] however, it is apparent even to big government supporters that with the size of government what it is, it cannot be allowed to stop what so ever, that it is “too big to fail”.
So the federal government needs to be taken down a few notches. The problem is we can’t just uproot everything and dispose with large sections. The federal government has intertwined itself into many parts of American lives (as is evidence by the white house report aforementioned). If we were to actually cut even one of the giant programs suddenly we would be rocking the foundation of a lot of people’s lives (housing, jobs, food, etc.).
I am not advocating for the American people to sigh and accept what might seem inevitable, yet I am also not advising for extreme sudden action. Our country has become too dependent on the government and unless we are carefully, surgically removing certain parts one at a time, the whole thing will topple of like a Jenga tower taking the rest of the country with it. What we need is a plan, by one much smarter than I, who can take out certain programs and replace them with temporary band aids to allow the country to adjust. An example would be to temporarily increasing subsidies and encouraging the growth of nonprofits which help lower income citizens while slowly cutting programs in order to lessen dependence on the government.
One thing is for sure though. We cannot allow the government to be the cornerstone of our economy; the scary thing is, it is slowly becoming just that. 120,000 private sector jobs lost and roughly 800,000 federal workers (at least at the start of the shutdown) were furloughed. Even with back pay granted a little after the shutdown it is terrifying to know that being closed for two weeks the government can have that kind of impact. We can debate over who’s fault this particular instance was but the important thing is that we, as a country see the effects of the shutdown and actually take away something from it.