If there’s one thing many career politicians are good at, it’s avoiding blame.
If something bad happens it’s because his or her political opponent, or opposition party, allowed, encouraged or otherwise made the bad event inevitable. With the assistance of hindsight the politicians can paint a clear picture of how the other side set the stage for failure or even disaster, whether man-made or naturally occurring.
Government shutdowns of the extended, man-made variety are perfect times for finger pointing when and if anything goes wrong.
Suppose, for example, there is a serious domestic terror attack in the next few days, or a tragic air crash with major loss of life. Or a natural event requiring massive and prompt government response happens. Who “owns” it then?
What happens if the long-overdue “big one” hits California while hundreds of thousands of government workers are sitting at home or looking for work because of a no-pay furlough? This could happen even as hundreds of thousands of their fellow civil servants work in a skeleton government, but with the same money problems as their enforced stay-at-home colleagues. Working or furloughed, some of the most important people in the country are doing it for free. They’re stressed out by their jobs and because the bills are piling up.
Consider that shutdown-induced stress level next time you are cruising at 500 mph six miles high over Kansas or the Atlantic Ocean, and being handled by a string of stressed-out air traffic controllers. Members of Congress are among the nation’s most frequent flyers, and should take that into account too.
In many other countries government shutdowns are no big deal. The saving grace is that hardly anybody notices. That’s partly because they happen so often and because government employs such a large percentage of the total workforce. Unhappy in France? Put on a yellow vest and burn some cars, or stop trucks using the “Chunnel” from France to England. Whatever, some countries even have hot lines to tell citizens and tourists which services are closed that day.
In other less tolerant nations, shutting down the government would get you a kick in the backside, or lead to a more permanent settlement. Here we are yet to find the correct balance.
Nobody knows how long the current shutdown will last. It could be days, weeks or even a year.
What is certain is that if anything really, truly bad happens that might, just might, have been prevented if the government had been operating at normal strength and status, the politicians who are actually enjoying this will demand to know how this happened and who’s to blame.
Ninety percent of avalanche accidents are triggered by the victim or someone in the victim’s party. A person’s body weight provides just enough extra stress to collapse the weaker layer below, especially at “trigger points” such as convex bulges in the slope, near ridgelines, or under rock bands. Noise does not trigger avalanches.