Will there be a government shutdown? If Senate Democrats and President Obama refuse to cooperate with the GOP-led House of Representatives and begin the process of cutting the government down to size before we reach the national debt limit, it’s possible.
Democrats are betting that Republicans will blink, and they are using the last and what they believe to be the best weapon in their arsenal, the 1995 bogeyman, to scare them into abandoning their principled stand. This bogeyman is without form or substance, but in the years that followed those infamous government shutdowns, it has been known to strike fear into the hearts of the most dedicated fiscal conservative representatives on Capitol Hill. Indeed this creature has left many a congressman shaking in his or her boots or stilettos.
In 1995, when the new GOP leaders who took control of the House and Senate tried to force President Clinton to agree on a budget, it backfired. Rather than give in, Clinton shut down the government twice, and the Republicans got their lunch handed to them. Republicans took the blame for this crisis in leadership. Clinton came away as the champion of the little guy and coasted to victory in the next election. “Whoooooo! Better watch out Republicans. The 1995 bogeyman is coming to get you. Whoooooo!”
Not so fast! This is not 1995. Things are completely different this time around, so stop cowering in the corner. Buck up! You have absolutely nothing to lose by drawing a line in the sand over runaway government spending. You better not back up and allow that line to be redrawn, again and again, or you will be up against the same thing those 1995 Republicans were up against – the holidays.
Let us not forget that the first government shutdown, which lasted a week, occurred during the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the busiest travel time of the year. The second government shutdown, which lasted three weeks, occurred between Dec. 16, 1995, and Jan. 6, 1996, a time when even the most dedicated political observer is busy with last-minute Christmas shopping, decking the halls, baking goodies for family and friends, packing, unpacking, wrapping presents, unwrapping presents, feasting, making flights and attending New Year’s parties.
Let’s face it: If Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton had run around Washington naked during that time, the average citizen would not have noticed.
The beginning of the end came when the Washington Post published a poll that showed the majority of Americans had no idea what this fight had been about. With the national debt approaching $5 trillion, Clinton had proposed a budget that would produce red ink as far as the eye could see, and the Republicans were simply trying to get him to accept one that would (eventually) reach balance. It was at that point that Republicans lost their nerve and threw in the towel. The revolution was lost.
It was an unfair fight from the very beginning. Clinton had the backing of the biased left-wing media. CNN, the “Clinton News Network,” and the alphabets – ABC, NBC and CBS – presented the president as a public champion standing against Republican efforts to slash funding for Medicare, education, the environment and public health. Most of the newspapers followed suit. There was no Fox New Channel to present both sides of this stalemate, and the Internet news sites were just getting off the ground. Even if the public had been paying attention, in this kind of news environment the outcome likely would have been the same.
Newt Gingrich was the man the left loved to hate, and the bombastic speaker of the House did nothing to help his cause. When Gingrich boasted to a group of reporters that he forced the shutdown because of a Clinton snub (Clinton made him sit in the back of Air Force One on a flight back from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral), it was as if Gingrich had posted a “kick me” sign on his own posterior. The media quickly obliged. The budget battle became crybaby Gingrich’s temper tantrum.
No, this is not 1995. Obama is not Clinton. Boehner is not Gingrich. The national debt is not $5 trillion. It’s $14 trillion and climbing, and taxpayers are fully engaged. A new Rasmussen poll shows the public supports a partial government shutdown (58 percent to 33 percent) if necessary until cuts can be made.
Every lawmaker talks about reducing the amount of our deficit spending, but talk is cheap. Voters want action, and they want it now. Don’t kick this can down the road till the end of the fiscal year and you are up against the holidays. Timing is everything, and the time is now.