Are government shutdowns ever a good idea?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Welcome to "Political Posturing," featuring opposing views on current issues important to Wisconsin's business community. In this column, small business owner Brad Werntz and manufacturing manager Steve Witherspoon offer their opinions from the left and the right, respectively.

No, and our weakling of a president once said so.

By Brad Werntz

I am going to do something unexpected here and share a quote by our president that I somewhat agree with: “A shutdown falls on the president’s lack of leadership. He can’t even control his own party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the president is weak.”

Of course, when the current president said this it was in 2013, he wasn’t the president, and it was intended as an insult for President Obama. But, you know, when it’s straight from the horse’s mouth like this, it’s hard not to hold that horse’s you know what accountable for what he said. Why? Because he’s mostly right, and I’ll give him that.

Why just “mostly right?” Well, because shutdowns are indeed symptoms of weakness in Washington. The shutdown of 2013 was created by a weak, GOP-controlled Congress and led by U.S. Senator and failed presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

But our president proudly owns this most recent one: “If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government…I am proud to shut down the government.” Note that in both cases the instigators caved and didn’t get what they wanted because a shutdown is a loser’s gambit, initiated out of weakness. So, that means that, yes, our president is weak.

But we knew that already. However, just because you’re weak it doesn’t mean that you can’t cause some real damage. While it’s too soon to gauge all of the impact that the shutdown had, we do know what happened in 2013.

Just one example: The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that the 2013 shutdown cost communities adjacent to National Parks $42 million per day, and that was just the impact to the economy. This current shutdown caused damage to Joshua Tree National Park alone that will take an estimated 300 years to repair. How do you put a price tag on that?

So, are shutdowns ever a good idea? For most everyone, it’s a strong no, nein, non. But from the Russian judge: “Da!” Is that a mixed response? I don’t think so.

Brad Werntz is a small business owner in Madison.



No, there are too many people held hostage.

By Steve Witherspoon

“Ever” is a long time; however, in general I personally don’t think government shutdowns are a good idea. I don’t think it’s an ethically sound political tactic or bargaining chip because it’s not ethical to virtue signal a political agenda while unethically holding the welfare of others hostage in a government shutdown.

We elect politicians to go to Washington, D.C. to manage the federal government so it can continue to serve the people and businesses with services that we the people, through our politicians, deem necessary. When the government shuts down, services to the people are stopped or reduced, some government employees continue to work while wages are deferred, and some are put on furlough. A shutdown is proof that they are unethically holding the welfare of others hostage and failing at their job.

In Jack Marshall’s 2013 blog titled “Ten Ethics Observations On The Government Shut Down,” Marshall correctly writes: “It takes two sides to make an impasse. Both sides of the dispute, I assume, are taking their positions in good faith with the conviction that they are important enough to reach this difficult point. Blaming either side exclusively is illogical and unfair, as well as dishonest. However, in an impasse, the side that refuses to bargain in good faith holds the greater responsibility for the length it.”

Both sides in D.C. pompously virtue signal from their soapbox that they are fighting the good fight, but what’s really happening is that shutdowns are evidence of intentional failures in government compromise to score political points. It’s not ethical and it’s not acceptable. It’s time we the people kick the soapbox out from under their pompous feet and demand they do their job.

Everyone, including the president and members of Congress, knows that they are obligated to compromise and pass a budget. The problem is that all their political posturing defines their agenda. Washington, D.C. politicians just can’t seem do what they were sent there to do without all the political propaganda. Government shutdowns show us that D.C. politicians are no longer there to serve the people, instead we the people are expected to be the cannon fodder to their partisan political agendas.

They should lose one month’s pay for every day of government shutdown.

Steve Witherspoon works in manufacturing management in Oregon, Wisconsin.​

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