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So we had a partial government shutdown for 35 days, lamented all the while by the liberals and journalists as “human suffering”, a shameful episode in the life of the republic. Yet, “Ho-hum” has been the reaction of many Americans. Now that the shutdown has ended, temporarily, the evidence is plain that American investors didn’t care. The stock market has been surging upward for the past four weeks. Even when news of the deal to end the shutdown began to leak out on Friday, stocks remained essentially flat. Perhaps the country has come to realize some positive things occur when the federal government isn’t sticking its tentacled fingers into every aspect of this country’s destiny.
No, investors didn’t care about the partial shutdown. In fact, most of America didn’t care. What started out with alarmist warnings ended up being almost business as usual. It wasn’t as important to the economy or the markets as other developments. Life went on. Adults still worked, kids still played. One reason for not caring is that federal functions relating to disaster and emergency assistance and all activities essential to public health, safety and protection of property–75% of the federal government– continued to operate. In any event and for whatever reason, “the 35-day shutdown turned into a banner period for the (stock) market”, stated Barron’s, as the S&P 500 rose 10.3%, “the best-ever shutdown performance” compared to prior shutdowns.
It was recently reported that 87% of the American people do not know anyone affected by the shutdown. Most Americans won’t miss non-essential government functions, and when nothing much changes in their lives, they may begin to wonder “what exactly does our government do when it’s open”. Debate.org conducted an ongoing poll and asked the question, “Could the government shutdown have been a good thing?” The current status of the poll reveals that 78% say Yes, and 22% say No. One reason for this: many Americans do not have the benefits and luxuries enjoyed by federal employees, they resent what they see as unjust government largess, and they feel that federal workers are simply getting a paid vacation during the shutdown. This view is buttressed by the New York Times report earlier this month that, since 2000, average pay for federal employees has grown twice as fast as in the private sector.
Sure, many federal workers endured some financial hardship, and that’s unfortunate. But tens of millions of private sector workers have endured the same hardships over the years when they have been fired, furloughed or laid off. And many of them never got to recapture their jobs. Not many employees in the public sector ever seem to give a damn about the job tribulations of private sector people, and yet they believe their own paychecks and jobs are entitled to be “protected”; they don’t seem to comprehend that in free-market economies, most private sector paychecks are not guaranteed.
Federal government employees sometimes forget that government is not the be-all, end-all. Which brings us to recognize one of the messages this shutdown has taught us: The U.S. can function without a lot of the stuff that government does daily. Yes, there are some essential government functions we cannot do without. But there are other functions we can learn to do without if we weren’t so spoiled, or that the private sector could perform more efficiently. Many Americans believe the government should do a lot less and that self-reliance should kick in. The feds need to spend less of our money and not employ millions of people. In fact, some libertarians looked at this shutdown as a test case showing how many tasks and functions the feds do that can be performed as well as, or better, without the federal government.
So, perhaps the partial shutdown of some government programs should be made permanent, based on lack of need and wastefulness. Many of the wildlife reservations and parks across the U.S. that were shut down could be staffed by local volunteers and charitable organizations, with the financial help of local companies. People might not need as much government as they think, and perhaps some agencies, like the TSA, Amtrak and the parks, should not be run by the federal government.
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