The Federal Government Has Shut Down. Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2018

President Donald Trump insisted he wanted $5 billion to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. The Senate said no and refused to add the money to a stopgap spending bill. So now the federal government is “shutting down.”

It’s really only a partial shutdown. About 420,000 federal employees will be working without pay; another 380,000 will be furloughed, But this is only due to the cut-off of the funding that would have been included in the continuing resolution. Much of the government spending for 2019—around $1 trillion—has already been approved.

As Joe Setyon wrote earlier today, the House of Representatives’ version of the continuing resolution included $5 billion for the border wall. The Senate version offered a smaller $1.3 billion for border security, none of it for the wall. And he obviously won’t be able to go back to Congress to ask for money after the holidays, because the Democrats will have firm control of the House and most certainly aren’t going to give him more money.

The Senate adjourned at 8 p.m. tonight without passing a spending resolution, guaranteeing the government shutdown. They will return to session Saturday at noon

So now we have less federal government, briefly, while everybody hammers things out. Federal government shutdowns are one of those concepts that feel wonderfully libertarian in theory but often end up being anything but in practice. First of all, the government doesn’t really shut down. Yes, a lot of employees get sent home, but most of the federal law enforcement apparatus is still in place. As I noted the last time we had a big federal shutdown, “The parts of the federal government authorized to shoot you are still functioning.”

And when the shutdown ends, all those furloughed employees are going to get paid. It’s not a money saver. Government shutdowns typically don’t lead to smaller or more efficient government in the long run.

Nevertheless, a federal shutdown indicates that someone is resisting an expensive and wasteful government project. In this case, refusing to give the president billions of dollars to build a stupid, pointless border wall is something lovers of liberty should cheer on.

So have a holiday toast and celebrate the warm feeling of a federal government that is just a little bit less intrusive and controlling and domineering than it usually is—even if it’s only temporary.

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