By Susan A. Davis
“We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.”
That’s what President Barack Obama said about the last significant government shutdown which lasted 16 days in 2013 over the Republicans’ demand to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And he was right.
Obviously, nobody listened. We recently surpassed the length of that shutdown and broke the record of 21 days under President Bill Clinton. That shutdown was over Republicans’ demands to slash Medicare.
Until recently, most shutdowns occurred because of policy disputes that caused lawmakers to miss funding deadlines. Many were over in a few days.
Now shutdowns are used as a way to achieve a policy objective: “Give us what we want or we are going to shut down the government.”
That’s completely unacceptable. We simply must stop using this tactic for policy wins.
One of the priorities of the 116th Congress should be looking at how we can take this tool away from politicians who seem to care more about a political win than the safety and well-being of our country.
In both the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns, Republicans failed to get what they wanted. But at what cost?
The 2013 shutdown cost the United States economy more than $24 billion.
It remains to be seen what the total cost of the 2018-2019 shutdown will be to the American people in lost economic power and tax dollars to restart the government.
According to S&P Global Ratings, this shutdown will cost $1.2 billion a week. After a month, the loss in economic activity will be more than what President Trump is asking for his border wall, which is $5.7 billion.
What goes under the radar is the personal stories of the real people who suffer during shutdowns.
I have heard from constituents who are feeling the brunt of the Trump shutdown.
Here are just a few of those stories:
“As a Coast Guard retiree, I am facing no pay during the shutdown. It is outrageous that after 26 years of service, I face financial troubles due to my country not facing to its obligations. Right now, there is no movement to fix this problem. What country uses its people as pawns in a political strife? This is an outrage and it needs to stop.”
Our nation’s 42,000 Coast Guard members missed their paychecks and are working without pay. How can anyone say they support national security yet force those who protect our shores to face this financial hardship?
“I’m a federal employee who is working with no pay. I have bills to pay. My lienholder on my car doesn’t care about a shutdown. They want their car payment. My child’s school wants its tuition. It’s just ridiculous that this shutdown is happening.”
Middle class families are innocently caught in the middle of this fight as well.
“I am on faculty at UCSD. The shutdown is hurting my ability to do research with the National Science Foundation.”
Shutdowns are not just about financial hardships of federal workers and those who do business with the federal government.
San Diego is a leader in scientific research. Our region is also one of the largest recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health. Shutdowns slow critical medical research that can lead to discoveries of cures and treatments that save lives and alleviate suffering.
Being a border region, the Border Patrol is charged with monitoring our borders. More than 16,000 of these people — including the more than 3,000 working in California — are also working without pay.
The federal government is certainly not that popular. But the 800,000 federal workers are fellow Americans, many with families. Considering the damage and pain a government shutdown causes, it is shocking that it is something even considered as an option.
But it is. Nobody wins in a shutdown and Congress needs to look at how we can take this weapon out of the arsenal of our politicians. Shutdowns are the wrong way to engineer policy.
—Congresswoman Davis represents central San Diego, including the communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge, Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, Bonita, and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.
[Graphic provided by www.canstockphoto.com]