Government

Government Doesn't Shut Down — It's on Autopilot

Some 75% is already funded this year, and 86% of federal spending is baked in the cake.

Lewis Morris · Dec. 18, 2018

Unless one side or the other blinks — and it appears the White House has — the federal government is headed for a shutdown on Dec. 21 at midnight. At the heart of this latest funding fight is a dispute over national sovereignty. President Donald Trump wants $5 billion for border security, part of it to begin construction on the border wall. One would think that funding would be a slam dunk after the recent migrant caravasion at the U.S.-Mexico border, and given Democrats’ history of support for the wall.

Now, however, Democrats live to defy what was once common sense as well as stymy national priorities because of their Trump Derangement Syndrome. As we reported last week, they keep moving the goal post on the border-funding debate, coming back with lower and lower budget numbers. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now offering just $1.3 billion in border-security funding, with none of it earmarked for the wall.

(Apparently, the only money Congress thinks is worth spending is $10.6 billion in aid to Mexico, Central America. So that’s where the wall money went…)

At the Oval Office meeting, President Trump proudly declared he would own any government shutdown that results from the Democrats’ bad faith negotiating. This may sound like traditional Trump grandstanding, but the president knows as well as the rest of us that Republicans always get blamed for shutdowns thanks to the Demo-owned and operated media. Might as well proudly own it and explain why.

Just what kind of shutdown will Republicans be blamed for this time around? How bad will the damage be? Well, we won’t be seeing national monuments barricaded like when Barack Obama petulantly made a shutdown as politically painful as possible in 2013.

In fact, despite what Democrats and the media will say, this impending shutdown will not be nearly as disruptive as previous ones. For starters, the government is already 75% funded through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2019. This includes the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, Energy, and Veterans Affairs. Only $314 billion of the government’s $1.24 trillion discretionary budget is still pending.

Homeland Security, Transportation, and Justice, among some other departments, remain unfunded. But airport-security personnel will still be on duty over the holidays, as essential workers are mandated to work through shutdowns. They’ll just have to wait until Congress returns to work to get their paychecks.

In fact, The Washington Times reports, “More than 400,000 essential government employees could be forced to stay on the job throughout a government shutdown — even if they’d already planned to take holiday vacations. A quirk of federal law says paid leave is considered government spending, and since no unauthorized spending can happen during a funding lapse, no one can take vacation.”

It’s an absolute myth that federal workers are not paid for working through a shutdown. Paychecks in some cases may be withheld, but full salaries are restored with retroactive pay once shutdowns conclude. The issue here is that this potential shutdown would come during the holiday season.

Another reason that a potential shutdown won’t be as painful as we are led to believe is because a vast majority of federal spending is on autopilot. In 2015, $3.2 trillion of the $3.7 trillion the federal government spent did not require any authorization by Congress.

As part of Congress’s long-term goal of divesting its responsibilities so its members can focus solely on reelection, legislators have set up “permanent appropriations” to automatically set spending levels for entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and also for wealth transfers via Medicaid and welfare. Federal agencies have been given power by Congress to spend money without legislative approval.

This trend has grown dramatically, with autopilot spending rising 87% since 1994. With no one minding the store on 86% of federal spending, it should come as no surprise that we have trillion-dollar annual deficits and a $22 trillion debt.

The media could focus on this and the fact that our elected members of Congress are shirking their constitutionally mandated responsibilities to the detriment of the country’s future. Blaming everything on President Trump is much easier, though. Better luck next shutdown.

(Updated.)

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