Why I was hoping for a government shutdown

March 21, 2013

I'll be honest. I was sort of hoping for a government shutdown.


Congress, you're terrible at your job. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomber)

It's not that I like government shutdowns. I'm as big a fan of national parks as the next guy. I just really, really, really don't like debt-ceiling fights. Government shutdowns are bad. But debt-ceiling fights are a disaster, and if they're not swiftly resolved, they can become a global financial catastrophe.

So I'd be happier to hear that the House and the Senate were moving away from a shutdown if I wasn't also reading stories like this one, from Politico's Jake Sherman:

If hiking the debt ceiling seemed difficult in 2011, it’s even trickier in 2013.

They might have appeared to stand down from the last clash over the debt ceiling in January. But don’t be fooled: House Republicans are still planning to push for steep spending cuts or budgetary reforms alongside legislation to allow more borrowing.

The sequester was supposed to be a "safe" crisis -- scary enough to force us to resolve our problems, but not as disruptive as a government shutdown or a debt-ceiling showdown. It turns out it wasn't nearly scary enough. Now we're passing on a government shutdown, too -- and before you accuse me of false equivalence, note that Democrats could have forced this fight by refusing to pass a continuing resolution that didn't replace the sequester with a balanced package.

We had two opportunities to come to a budget deal without imperiling the global economy. But Congress has decided to wait for the imperil-the-global-economy one instead. Great.

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Evan Soltas · March 21, 2013