January 2019 Editorial Winner

The Closure Crisis
Wayne Trotter, Countywide & Sun

Every living American who truly cares about the dignity, integrity and continuity of this country’s great experiment in self-governance is bound to be aware of the momentous events that occurred in 1776. In that fateful year, 48 patriots who had been born and raised on these shores joined with eight brethren who had been born in Mother England but by 1776 had become residents of the 13 colonies in mind and in spirit. Together, these 56 men signed a message to the tyrant King George that would change the entire world.

That message began this way:

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...” 

Of course you recognize that. It was the Declaration of Independence, a beautifully written, remarkably thoughtful document that set this great nation ... and more to the point, this great nation’s people ... on a journey to demonstrate that even if it may have some faults, even if it lays a big egg now and then, self-governance is always the best governance.

The United States of America has made a lot of mistakes in the 242 years since that declaration was adopted ... but the beauty of this country ... and of many of this world’s other great democracies ... is that one by one those errors are acknowledged and changes are made. Yes, sometimes the question at issue has to be abandoned and abolished and sometimes it can simply be changed. But in either case, common sense and common progress almost magically seem to become one and the same.

It’s beginning to look as if all of the above was true for the first 200 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted and sent across the Atlantic to at first irritate and in the end separate this country from a haughty kingdom. In the early 1970s, Congress got irked at President Richard Nixon for ... no, not for that ... for impounding appropriated expenditures and came up with a new way of handling the budget.

Ironically, that congressional solution took effect in 1976, exactly 200 years after 56 brave men with great foresight gathered in Philadelphia and set this country on the road to independence. That 1976 law was called the Congressional Budget and Control Act ... and it is the vehicle that makes it possible to shut down part of our government while leaving most of it functioning. That means only some people get hurt.

Things weren’t always this way. For the first 200 years, the Congress of the United States had to pass some kind of budget. But since 1976, it’s been possible to do that and shut down only part of our government. It’s happened 21 times since then and it’s going on again right as you read this.

Do the two major parties like that idea? They must or something would have been done about it over a 40-year span, wouldn’t one think? We’re convinced. Are you?

Hey ... you wouldn’t run a store like that. You wouldn’t run a church like that. You wouldn’t run a school like that. You certainly wouldn’t run a radio or television station or a newspaper or practically anything in the private sector like that. So why have the Republicans and Democrats let this continue for the better part of half a century? Do you think it’s because they believe this gives them a chance to get a leg up on the other side? We can’t think of another reason? Can you?

Right now, we have a split government. The Democrats control the House of Representatives. The Republicans control the Senate and the White House. Both sides are trying to blame the other. That’s the way this song goes.

These closures aren’t inevitable. Governments don’t have to work this way. Sensible governments should never work this way. We’re old-fashioned. We believe the American government is the best government on Earth ... but when it comes to this, somebody needs to take the lead.

This foolishness didn’t start until 1976. Get to work, Congress. This could be fixed by, oh say, 2020 at the latest. Quit talking about it. Stop pointing fingers. Get to work and fix it. Now!

Got it?

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