While House members of the tea partly implicitly or explicitly argued that their goal during the government shutdown was to create policies that would somehow reduce America’s debt and reduce the size of the federal government, it seems clear that in terms of the former goal, America has only been plunged deeper into short and long term debt (not to mention President Obama has overseen record-setting declines in public employment). For this reason, Sen. Mark Warner (VA) recently requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a report that analyzes the economic impact of the 16-day federal government shutdown.
In his request letter to the GAO, Warner stated, “We just concluded the first shutdown of the federal government in nearly 20 years. Abruptly closing and opening the world’s largest enterprise was completely irresponsible, and there are some indications it caused unnecessary hardship across our economy.” Sen. Warner went on, “The best way to prevent another unnecessary shutdown is to better understand how this irresponsible action fully impacted our economy.”
Somehow along the road of political strategy, tea party Republicans convinced themselves that sacrificing the certainty and well-being of millions of Americans was a necessary evil to shake off the greater evil of supposedly inescapable public debt and a menacingly big federal government. In this way, if they ever had a sense of what it means to govern responsibly, they lost it in the haze of ideological fervor, and the people of America suffered.
Opponents of Sen. Warner may respond that his request for an economic analysis of the government shutdown is little more than a political stunt. As a politician, there is little doubt that Sen. Warner’s request is at least in some respects a political act, but it’s a good political act. Unlike the tea party Republicans, Sen. Warner’s request could actually help Americans from across the socioeconomic range in America by preventing fiscally disruptive legislative acts that achieve more harm than good. That is, Sen. Warner actually understands what governing is all about.