Maria Gutzeit | Governing by Temper Tantrum


The government shutdown, which is now the longest on record as of this writing, is ridiculous. It is sad that some cheer it on. This shutdown, like others, illustrates a dysfunction that should be jeered rather than cheered.

The Congress and Senate already had agreement on a funding bill, which was voted on and approved, but President Trump refused to sign it. There remains unspent money for physical barriers, tens of billions of dollars appropriated on border security, and yet the president remains focused on this one thing at all costs. The Congress and the Senate could override the veto, but now the Republican-controlled Senate refuses to even take up the vote unless the president agrees in advance.

First off, the president, despite his wishes, is not king. The president is part of one branch (the executive) of government, the legislative (Congress and Senate) is another, and the judicial is the third. The branches are co-equal. It is a problem when one or more branches forget that. If the legislative branch cannot come up with something the president will sign, then it is their duty to come up with something they all will override a veto on.

The answer to not getting your way is not having a temper tantrum and breaking things until you get your way. The shutdown is that, and more.

Who decided that it is OK that TSA agents and air traffic controllers work for weeks with no pay? That 90 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency is unnecessary? That food inspections, mortgage and tax issues and weather information are superfluous? In effect, our president has decided one single issue – a wall, already partially funded yet unbuilt for other reasons – is more important than a much larger segment of government.

Right now, apparently, the Republican-controlled Senate agrees with him.

The bigger issue is why govern by temper tantrum? Would a private business run this way? Just punish the IT department, for instance, because the CEO didn’t get new landscaping at headquarters? Would a city stop filling potholes because the City Council couldn’t agree on a new logo? Would a water agency stop issuing new water connections because someone wanted more money for accounting software? Would any of them expect to get away with making people show up for work while not getting paid?

No. People in charge of functioning organizations need to figure this stuff out and move on.

Yes, the border is important and there are many ways to protect it. The shutdown cost has already exceeded the cost Trump is demanding, per Time Magazine. The $5 billion Trump is demanding is 1/880th of the federal budget, one-tenth of 1 percent. It is largely irrelevant.

Should everyone cave? No, one person cannot hold the United States democracy hostage. However, everyone should be coming up with solutions and workarounds to get our government back in fully functioning gear. Ideally this should be prevented in the future – the last shutdown happened less than a year prior to this one.

I believe a large part of the problem, which trickles into local government, are extremists that demand only one specific solution for complex issues. In the vast majority of cases, “government” is made up of patient, smart people considering the best way forward, together. What derails that is someone (or a group) having a temper fit and demanding a “thing” without sufficient review, study and buy-in. Of course, studying things to death is also a problem.

The answer is in the middle, but the middle is no longer an acceptable place to be, according to some very loud voices.

Already Democrats are being threatened with campaigns from the left if they vote for anything that funds the wall. Republicans, no doubt, fear Trump campaigning against them if they speak out, as evidenced by resignations by people like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Fear is no place to govern from.

As always, I hope most Americans are reasonable and want our government to succeed. I hope they know there are different views and that some compromise is necessary to move things forward.

I hope they view incremental progress as better than a brawl. Government is good people trying to make things better for everyone. It’s not about threats and temper tantrums.

I hope we all remember that.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

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