Disagreements can lead to improvements. This morning, as I walked in Zion National Park with constituents to talk about ways we can improve our federal government, we came up with a good idea for the future. We’re calling it a Shutdown Prevention Plan or a Shutdown 72-hour Kit.
The federal government—and that includes both political parties—increasingly regards citizens as the enemy. It spies on us. It takes actions against us based solely on our political ideology. And, as we now see, it picks shutdown targets intended to cause maximum harm to us. How might we learn from this current situation, to turn the tide?
The Administration and Congress Creatures and of all stripes want to distance themselves from Shutdown 2013 by pointing at someone else. (They’re really good at that!). Here’s how they can do that political dance, while doing something meaningful. They need to pass a Shutdown Prevention Plan that mandates in the event of a future federal shutdown that (1) the first spending cuts are salaries of Congress and the Administration and (2) that—pursuant to mutually-agreed upon plans—States can run specified programs that otherwise would be shutdown.
The rationale: on Point 1, Congress and the Administration cause the shutdowns, and they are the ones who can end the shutdowns. Rather than point the pain elsewhere (I would argue that they point it elsewhere in vulgarly political ways intended to make citizens suffer as much as possible), they should share in the pain and be the first to feel the pain.
On Point 2, people view Government (with a Big G) as a whole. They don’t really segregate the functions of federal, state, and local sovereigns. They just expect Government to work. If the feds can’t run things, the States should be allowed to step in on a reimbursement basis. States typically are much better than the feds at managing their budget. Thus, States could set aside rainy-day funds to pay for things like National Park operations, if the feds can’t.
To prepare for shutdowns, the feds and states should be authorized to prepare plans. Along with being good management tools, the plans could provide good accountability/transparency measures. For example, the National Park Service and the State of Utah should have plans in place for the State to immediately take over operation of the parks in the event of a shutdown. As part of that plan, the federal government would need to annually report the daily operating costs of each park, so that the State can make sure it has adequate money set aside to assume operations.
I call on Congress to pass such legislation. (I hope Rob Bishop will do it, given his committee assignments and his skills.). I will open a bill to take care of the Utah side of the equation. This seems like responsible governance to me and the constituents I met with this morning.
And, by the way, shutdowns can be part of Congress and the Administration working things out. I’m not saying they shouldn’t ever happen, just that they shouldn’t be left high and dry while they enjoy watching the people suffer.
Any thoughts to improve on this plan?