Last one out, turn off the lights

The federal government is approaching a shutdown, continuing a pattern of brinkmanship as every new deadline approaches – rather than disciplined and regularized budget process observance.  Even should we make it past this turn of the fiscal year without a shutdown (unlikely) the symbolic raising of the debt limit deadline is just around the corner.  We are currently operating in the “sequester” which I discussed in a previous semester.  As you observe events unfolding in these unusual budgetary times, make an effort to get past ideological shortcuts and take an analytical perspective based on your learning in the MPA program.

Observing the executive and legislative branches’ behavior and gamesmanship in recent years makes the detailed budget processes covered in the textbook appear meaningless.  Nevertheless, the players in this drama (and it is depressingly dramatic; boring routine in fiscal matters would be a refreshing relief, and would be better received by the markets) are quite aware of the institutional rules which they can manipulate to force confrontation; those rules are grounded in budgetary and fiscal legislation.

Quartz.com (an Atlantic Monthly property, also publishes Government Executive) addresses “Who will notice a US government shutdown” – the metaphor of ice freezing through the economy over time as a shutdown persists is particularly apt.  The New York Times bemoans the fact that the shutdown 17 years ago appears to have left little impression on the Congress of today – “Last shutdown a lesson lost on Capitol Hill”  The Wall Street Journal summarizes recent events leading up to the shutdown.

The intergovernmental impact of a shutdown is substantial.  Governors respectfully request that Congressional leadership not slam on the brakes, in a letter at the National Governors Association; note the emphasis on the value of predictability.   The nations’ mayors oppose a shutdown as well.  The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a location for updates on the impact of the shutdown.

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