Government shutdown exposes how big government has become

  • 10 January 2019
  • msell

The partial government shutdown has generated a number of headlines about those workers who are feeling the pinch from not getting their federal paychecks. We sympathize with those folks – they are caught in the middle of a policy fight.

But as the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards writes, their plight is a symptom of how needlessly big – and expensive -- the government has become:

Consider security screening at the nation's 450 commercial airports. The government took over that function in 2001 when it created the Transportation Security Administration. Over the years, the TSA has generally done a poor job, caused congestion and wasted a lot of money.

And now, because the TSA is the only screening organization we have, the shutdown may affect the entire nation's air travel. A spokesman for the TSA screener's union said Tuesday: "Some of [my members] have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown … The loss of officers, while we're already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don't have enough trainees in the pipeline."

He's probably exaggerating the risk, but political battles would not impact such important activities if they were separated from the federal government. Many advanced nations, including Britain and France, have privatized their screening or moved it to the control of local airports. If we followed suit, there would not be just one "pipeline" for trainees because airports could contract services from numerous companies.

Edwards offer other examples of how government has, in his words, taken "too much of the U.S. economy hostage."

Edwards say the future holds even more problems, as federal spending grows unabated and the likelihood of more shutdowns grows.

That's no way to run a country. Edwards suggests untangling the federal government from the U.S. economy, allowing both to become more productive and resilient. This is correct…but the DC swamp won't surrender its economic gains without a fight.