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by
Rick Moran

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October 13, 2013 - 2:47 pm

Is it really possible to draw valuable lessons from this tragic-comedy of a government shutdown?

Insofar that Americans are paying attention, yes. But if all you do is pay attention to the posturing, the political theater, chances are you learn nothing.

President Obama has done a beautiful job of framing the shut down in ways that the American people can’t fail to understand; you need government more than you think and all these bad things that happen would be even worse if those crazy Republicans were put in charge.

On the other hand, lacking unity of purpose, the Republicans have been unable to generate much of a narrative except to accuse Obama of playing politics with the shutdown.

Both sides are guilty of overreach. Obama on shutting down venues unnecessarily and Republicans on trying to defund Obamacare. But despite the effort to carefully choreograph this kabuki dance for maximum PR effect, it’s the American people who have surprised both sides.

Vets marching en masse to the memorials to physically tear down the artificial — and cynical — attempt by the president to generate outrage against Republicans. And, as AP reports, here and there around the country, private citizens and organizations are taking responsibility for their own communities and donating time and money to help those in need:

For 16-year-old Alishe’ah Sockwell, federal money makes a big difference.

It helps put a roof over her head. It allows her mother, Nia, to undergo job training. And it pays for childcare for Sockwell’s young daughter so that Sockwell can go to high school every day in Little Rock, Arkansas.

But with some federal funds out of reach because of the shutdown, Sockwell may have to stay home from school in order to watch her daughter. If the shutdown drags on much longer, her housing could be in jeopardy, too.

So, to fill in the gaps, the nonprofit organization that provides Sockwell and other homeless people in Little Rock with childcare, shelter and other assistance, has asked community members to chip in.

Donations trickled in for that organization, called Our House, and something similar is happening around the U.S.

Across the country, donors big and small are opening their wallets to help keep afloat programs that protect people in need as the government shutdown persists. A pair of Texas philanthropists pledged up to $10 million to help Head Start pre-kindergarten programs for poor children hurt by the shutdown. A university in New Hampshire decided to offer scholarships to active-duty military personnel whose tuition assistance has been switched off by the shutdown.

And in Arkansas, people have been donating to Our House.

But those donations aren’t enough to cover the federal funding tied up by the shutdown that began Oct. 1.

No, that’s true. But this was a spontaneous response to a crisis. Imagine if communities organized themselves to deal with their neighbor’s problems year round? Of course, such voluntary community assistance wouldn’t cover everyone in need. But think of the benefits of shrinking the anti-poverty bureaucracy to a more manageable size.

And that brings us to another surprise that has emerged from the shutdown crisis. People are looking around and seeing that the sky isn’t falling, the earth isn’t being swallowed up by a gigantic sink hole, and the sun still rises every morning in the east even though the government is partially shut down.

With landmarks closed, paychecks delayed and workers furloughed, Americans are drawing dueling lessons from the rippling effects of the partial shutdown: The disruptions show that the feds are way too involved in people’s lives or that the government does a lot of vital things that people take for granted.

There’s a messaging war underway to see which viewpoint will prevail. But any shift in public opinion also may well hinge on how much, or how little, people are personally affected as the shutdown drags on.

“It definitely has brought to life what’s going on,” says Pamela Jones, a lawyer from Richmond, Calif., who’s noticing the shutdown’s effects all around her, in closed national parks, disrupted weddings, shuttered restaurants and “life moments and events destroyed.”

Jones, 54, a Democrat and fiscal conservative, finds herself torn in the too-much, too-little debate over the federal government, and says the shutdown at least is giving “more information to the common man, so to speak.”

Jim Chenye, a former marketing manager in Birmingham, Ala., sees no argument for the importance of government in the shutdown’s rippling effects.

“I’m never an advocate of a larger federal government,” says Chenye, 64, a Republican. The shutdown and debt ceiling debate show the government’s broken, Chenye says, but he figures the annoyances of the moment will be long forgotten before people vote in the 2016 elections.

As with the sequester, the administration oversold the idea of catastrophe if a shut down occurred. But people adapt or make do with what they have. We’ve always done that. It’s just that in the last few decades, we’ve forgotten how to. Self-reliance is an American birthright, something in which individuals used to take an enormous pride.

It’s not that we don’t “need” government. I would have hated it if we had to rely on state militias to take down the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. And a social safety net for those in genuine need is a necessity to keep people from dying in the streets of starvation or exposure. There are hundreds of other things that a 21st century urban industrialized society asks of government — things that only the federal government can do. The questions being debated are how much government do we need and, just as importantly, how much can we afford?

If we ever get serious about this debate and deal with those questions, conservatism will once again become ascendant.

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
How much federal government do we need? Enough to provide an interface layer amongst the states and between the several states and the rest of the world. That means, more or less, the Departments of Defense, State, Commerce, and Justice. The rest are superfluous.

After that, allow each individual state to determine their acceptable level of government intervention. Those that desire more government interference in their lives can move to California, while those who desire less can move to Texas.

If only this were the system design from the beginning...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
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"Is it really possible to draw valuable lessons from this tragic-comedy of a government shutdown?"

Possible? Yes. Likely? I hope so, but I fear not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rick, if I'm not mistaken the National Guard (state militias) HAVE been involved in Afghanistan AND Iraq.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The answer to your question is that we need government to be restricted to things that absolutely can't be done in the private sector. The fundamental problem is that government is inefficient, wasteful, prone to corruption and always seeking to enlarge itself. This isn't some good versus evil notion but rather it derives from human nature when relieved of the personal responsibilities, the checks and balances and the incentives that are found in a free market system.

And it is not overreach to try to put the brakes on Obamacare - destined without a doubt to become the mother of all entitlement systems that will insure too-big government forever.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not just government or the private sector, it's also a question of which government. If law enforcement must be a government function, that doesn't mean federal cops issuing traffic tickets, that's a local/state government function.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How much federal government do we need? Enough to provide an interface layer amongst the states and between the several states and the rest of the world. That means, more or less, the Departments of Defense, State, Commerce, and Justice. The rest are superfluous.

After that, allow each individual state to determine their acceptable level of government intervention. Those that desire more government interference in their lives can move to California, while those who desire less can move to Texas.

If only this were the system design from the beginning...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
since the left will always name its enemies as "far-right extremists" we might as well lay out the framework of a government for the"far-right extremist" so when the "moderates" start screaming "uncle" the resulting compromises will actually mean something
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Looks like Jeff Gauch and MRG01 have answered this one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How might one go about answering that question: how much govt do we need? Any ideas?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Moran. Current government practice never, ever, establishes priorities of any kind. Programs initiated 60 years ago but which are now useless or irrelevant are continually funded, even though it would make sense to end them and direct the funds to other, more urgent uses. Government incapable of reforming itself is a cancer. I also agree that conservatives might just win this debate. The wonder is why they and the Republican Party don't try harder to drive such a conversation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are very few things we actually NEED the government to do for us. And there are 17 trillion reasons why we ought to discover precisely what those actual needs are very, very soon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" The questions being debated are how much government do we need and, just as importantly, how much can we afford?"

Define "need".

"From each according to his ability. To each according to his need." - Marx

Ah ain't got much ability, but ah got lots of needs. Lots and lots of needs.

It's funny how people in an affluent society confuse luxuries with necessities. Kinda like the children of wealthy households who cannot function without a trust fund, or at least Daddy's platinum card.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can pretty much guarantee you more of a response to this over at Reason.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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