I arose this morning to a headline in today's Journal Sentinel telling me that it is "lights out" today as the federal government shuts down and Obamacare proceeds.
Give me a break. The lights aren't out and calling what is happening today a government "shutdown" is a tad hyperbolic and, to the paper’s credit, the text of its report makes clear that the “shutdown” is “partial.”
Now that the "lights" are "out," just what is the federal government not doing? Are the military and national security apparatus on hiatus? No, they are not. If you go Mitchell International today, there will be air traffic controllers in the tower and TSA personnel to run you through the airport Macarena. The food and drug safety agencies remain in operation and, if there is a disaster, FEMA will roll - at least as much as it ever does. The Fed and banking regulators are operational. The FBI is working. The courts are open. In fact, the majority of federal workers are still going in. Benefits checks are still going out and taxes are still being collected.
This is all because Congress has provided that, in the event of a funding gap, "essential services" will continue and "essential" is defined rather broadly. In fact, one is tempted to argue that, if a federal job is not considered essential and immune from "shutdown," it probably shouldn't exist.
I won’t go that far – an extended furlough of some of these workers would be undesirable – but the sky is not falling. Congress has provided that “essential” are to continue because "shutdowns" like this are not uncommon. Prior to today, we have had 17 since 1977 most of them prompted by issues far less compelling than the President's stubborn commitment to roll out parts of a health care plan which is clearly not ready for prime time even as he lawlessly refuses to implement other parts and grants exemptions to political cronies.
Lights out? It would be more accurate to say they’ve been dimmed. A little.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.