RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Intro: "I was there in 1995 when the government closed because of a budget stalemate. I had to tell most of the Labor Department's 15,600 employees to go home and not return the next day. I also had to tell them I didn't know when they'd next get a paycheck. There were two shutdowns, actually, rolling across the government in close succession, like thunder storms. It's not the way to do the public's business."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

The Coming Shutdown, What's Really at Stake

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

07 April 11


Paul Ryan's Plan, the Coming Shutdown, and What's Really at Stake

was there in 1995 when the government closed because of a budget stalemate. I had to tell most of the Labor Department's 15,600 employees to go home and not return the next day. I also had to tell them I didn't know when they'd next get a paycheck.

There were two shutdowns, actually, rolling across the government in close succession, like thunder storms.

It's not the way to do the public's business.

Newt Gingrich got blamed largely because his ego was (and is) so big he couldn't stop blabbing that Clinton should be blamed. (Gingrich's complaint of a bad seat on Air Force One didn't help.)

But the larger loss was to the dignity and credibility of the United States government. When average Americans saw the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States behaving like nursery school children unable to get along, it only added to the prevailing cynicism.

Cynicism about government works to the Republicans' continued advantage.

Case in point. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan unveiled a plan today that should make every American cringe. It would turn Medicare into vouchers whose benefits are funneled into the pockets of private insurers. It would make Medicaid and Food Stamps into block grants that allow states to ignore poor people altogether. It would drastically cut funding for schools, roads, and much else Americans need. And many of the plan's savings would go to wealthy Americans who'd pay even lower taxes than they do today.

Ryan's plan has no chance of passage - as long as Democrats are still in control of the Senate (even Democratic deficit hawks like Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson are appalled by it) and the White House.

But this so-called "blueprint" could be a blueprint for America's future when and if right-wing Republicans take charge.

Which is where the cynicism comes in - and the shutdowns. Republicans may get blamed now. But if the shutdowns contribute to the belief among Americans that government doesn't work, Republicans win over the long term. As with the rise of the Tea Partiers, the initiative shifts to those who essentially want to close it down for good.

That's why it's so important that the President have something more to say to the American people than "I want to cut spending, too, but the Republican cuts go too far." The "going too far" argument is no match for a worldview that says government is the central problem to begin with.

Obama must show America that the basic choice is between two fundamental views of this nation. Either we're all in this together, or we're a bunch of individuals who happen to live within these borders and are mainly on their own.

This has been the basic choice all along - when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, in the Civil War, when we went through World War I and World War II and the Great Depression in between, during the Civil Rights movement and beyond.

The President needs to remind us that as members of the same society we have obligations to one another - that the wealthiest among us must pay their fair share of taxes, that any of us who loses our jobs or homes or gets terribly sick can count on the rest of us, and that we have collective obligations to our elderly, our children, and the rest of the planet.

This is why we have government. And anyone who wants to shut it down or cut it down because they say we can't afford it any longer is plain wrong. We are the richest nation in the world, richer than we've ever been. We can afford to remain a society whose members are in it together.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-47 # Justice 2011-04-07 19:51
I don't see a problem, So the IRS will have have trouble harassing people?--Excell ent. No national park employees?--The parks could be easier to get into and use. No customs agents?--Maybe the flow of Chinese goods into the USA would slow down. SOME REAL PROBLEMS? As "Essential Services" the TSA stays in business!!--why pay the TSA a dime to continue to violate our privacy and take away our 4th Amendment rights?. AND worst of all, congress stays in business!!--Sin ce when have they ever done anything useful?
+7 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-08 06:17
I haz a better idea! Lets leave the gummint shutted down. Thats wood saves me a hole bunchload of monney.

Wid all thats kash i cud afford a char to go find me a job. And then I would have me even more of that monney stuff.

Besides like you say, there won't be no more china things cummin inta here. And hoo are these TSA folks? I bet they must be china commies.

So shut it down and leave it shut. Never done me no good.
That all fore now, have to run off to go sees my medykare doc and cash my soshul securitty chek.
-10 # rock 2011-04-08 10:20
You make so much more sense when you turn your "spell-check" off!
+23 # kernel 2011-04-08 06:55
Quit your unpatriotic whining and pay your taxes along with the rest of us so the U.S. can find its way back to being the greatest nation on the earth.
+2 # Robert Griffin 2011-04-08 17:17
No national park employees? The parks will probably then be locked up and inaccessible to the public. No customs agents? All of those American jobs relying on imports suffer.
+2 # Stay Calm 2011-04-08 18:09
How dense are you?? What do you think the National Parks would be like after a month with no National Park Service? Have you ever seen a college campus after a major football game? Or the site of an outdoor concert after the crowd leaves? Who would even WANT to use a park in such a condition?
+26 # LeeBlack 2011-04-07 22:48
The Tea Party Republicans insist they are doing what they were elected to do. This means our government is being run by the 'squeakiest wheel' - not by common sense and not by what is good for all the people.

I think the shut down will be devastating to military families - I can't imagine this is how we honor our fighting men, women and their families.
+21 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-08 06:48
The reason Republicans were voted in and Dems were voted out was Jobs. Tea Party candidates won because they claimed that the government deficit was getting in the way of jobs being created.

There were not sent to DC to cut the budget UNLESS it created jobs. As you say the Tea Party is claiming that they were elected to slash the budget. It just shows how stupid they really are when they don't even know why people voted for them.
-16 # rock 2011-04-08 10:21
"Taxed Enough Already." Get it?
-7 # Oligarch 23 2011-04-08 12:32
I can always count on you, Rock, to make it easier for me! Thanks so much! Alas I will be arriving home after a three month stay aborad and will be arriving before tax filing so will have to send in my purely symbolic tax return-I do get a tiny refund-won't pay the accountants' fee for preparing the thing but still, with the market up I should have some extra money kicking around. And of course, I have new plan and extra money set up to buy more property in foreign country where my measily million will go much further, thanks to all of you giving me so much for so little in return! Vote Republican Tea Party-I am taxed enough already!
+6 # people2power 2011-04-07 23:09
"This has been the basic choice all along - when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution... " Robert, when well-meaning intellectuals like yourself can face the truth that the founding fathers were wealthy landowners (and slave owners) who sought to entrench and secure their own power -- specifically over and above the common man (women were not considered), then "we" can start to have a serious dialogue about meaningful change. And the kind of change "we" need for true democratic reform is both sweeping and formidable.
+1 # Jake Clinton 2011-04-08 15:04
The spectrum of the "founding fathers" (were men not gods) included very wealthy (mostly slave holding Viginia ans southerners), and working class men mostly from the northern states that had very different views...the common thread was independency and the ability to be free men (and up on Abigail Adams) was and continues to be an experiment in self rule...but has moved towards the "corpacracy" that is being dictated by the very few who manipulate the airways.
+1 # Stay Calm 2011-04-08 18:16
Is 'people2power' willing and able to give even a tiny clue about "the kind of change we need" or does the impact of your statement rely upon being totally vague?
+21 # rm 2011-04-08 06:01
The shut down in Tea Party Theatre. That is the best they can do. They have no ideas for actually fixing things. Rather they want to make as much chaos as possible so that no one will talk about what Reich wrote about last week -- the absolute necessity of taxing where the money is going -- the richest 1% and corporations.

Ryan, Cantor, Gingrich, Bachmann, and the rest are essentially nihilists, but they would trace their intellectual heritage not to the radical youth of the 19th century but to the Austrian economists, especially Joseph Schumpter whose theory of "creative destruction" underlies their program. Naomi Klein has analyzed this very well in her Shock Doctrine. They know that in chaos they can gain lots of control of the economy and government. The only problem is -- chaos is pretty bad for about 95% of Americans.
+17 # todd williams 2011-04-08 06:37
Justice, apparently you either can't read or can't comprehend or you just skipped Reich's article above. In any case, you are exactly at the epicenter of all that's wrong with America. You are obviously a very selfish, self-centered individual with no regard for your fellow citizens. Your comments reveal your profound ignorance of what makes America great. In one sense, I feel sorry for you. But on the other hand, your regressive attitude when combined with others of your ilk, is doing irreparable damage to our society as a whole. On a personal level, this does affect me and my fellow citizens. So I condemn you and your fellow fools for what you are doing to me, my family and all innocent Americans.
+13 # coach777b 2011-04-08 09:31
Justice, or it it "JustUs"' is typical of these I pulled myself up by my bootstraps crowd. They claim to have gotten where they are, financially, socially or otherwise, through their own efforts. No help from city, state or federal government entities. Apparently, these people look the other way whenever government has any input that comes to their aid. So shutting down the government is a real goal for them because it will show the nation how strong, not wise that they are. And it will also deal a blow to that black man who illegally sits in their "White" House.
+15 # Realist 2011-04-08 06:43
I hope that the members of congress and their staffs also do not get paid during the shutdown. If they do get paid, it is a travesty.
+5 # AndreM5 2011-04-08 10:28
Of courese they get paid. They wrote that into law a long time ago.
+15 # liberalman 2011-04-08 09:13
Its the piggy back riders people. The GOP's tacking on provisions to de-fund Planned Parenthood & the EPA among other right hated agencies is one of the major sticking points. The right is playing extreme hardball & have twisted the debate where as many citizens would blame the Democrats equally for a shutdown. These corporate backed destroyers of the public good have got to go.
-5 # rock 2011-04-08 12:25
Wonder if y'all have seen this headline yet?

"Democratic Activists Plan Protest to Dump Trash at Boehner's Home Saturday"

That's what I would call "giving him a piece of their minds!"
+6 # angelfish 2011-04-08 12:55
I hate to have to tell you this Mr. Reich, but Jesus Christ could come down and tell the ReTHUGlicans what they are doing to this Government is UNFORGIVEABLE, but they WOULDN"T listen. THEY are Imperial, only THEY know what is RIGHT for America. After all, they were CHOSEN by God, or so they think. I wonder if it EVER occurred to them that they MIGHT be WRONG?... and if so, what the consequences might be if they ARE? I doubt it. Like the Pope, they THINK they are infallible!

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.