Monday, July 11, 2011

What if They Shut the Government Down & Nobody Cared?

As the Minnesota state government shutdown enters its second week, the most newsworthy aspect of it may be how little most Minnesotans are being impacted by the shutdown and the observation that most residents of the North Star state don’t appear particularly concerned about it. Oh sure the Star Tribune still has a squad of reporters out digging in every nook and cranny and leaving no stone unturned to try to find the latest victim de jure, but the populace at large doesn’t seem to have bought into the idea that shuttering some government services is going to lead to chaos in the streets. In fact, the bodies aren’t piling up as predicted and life is going on pretty much as usual for most people. The resurrection of the Twins and the long awaited arrival of summer weather are more likely to be brought up in conversation these days and when the subject of the government shutdown is mentioned it’s usually greeted with a joke or dismissive disinterest. In general, Minnesotans’ response to the government shutdown has been to shrug our shoulders and issue a collective, “Meh.”

This apathy is probably a result of combination of two things. Firstly, Minnesotans now realize that while the government shutdown might be inconvenient at times, it’s not really all that hard to get by without those state services that are no longer available. Secondly, the turbulent economic times that we’ve experienced since 2008 have sapped the reserves of sympathy that people might have for state employees who are being directly impacted by the shutdown. Oh, so you’re having to deal with layoffs, salary freezes, and uncertainty about where your next paycheck is coming from and when? Gee, those of us who work in the private sector have no idea what that must be like.

This non-reaction reaction has to be concerning to the big government crowd out there. If they expected that the shutdown would cause the citizens of Minnesota to be at the barricades agitating for higher taxes on their behalf, they’ve been sadly mistaken. The very threat of a government shutdown has long been one of their most effective PR weapons to influence public opinion and prod poll-driven politicians towards settlements favorable to their terms. But what if it turns out that the “Big One” which they just dropped is really a dud? What if finally following through on their threat to “go nuclear” doesn’t result in a bang but a whimper? What have they got left? Next time, we’re going to shutdown more government? The longer this particular shutdown goes on the weaker their case becomes. And at this point, most Minnesotans don’t seem all that worried about that.

UPDATE-Pat From Blaine e-mails:

Just read your article, "What if They Shut the Government Down & Nobody Cared?" Interesting about what you're saying in the srticle is exactly what happened in October 2001, when state employees when on strike for 2 weeks. The strike was called off, the unions accepted an offer that was lower than the final on the table before the strike, after 2 weeks because the general public didn't notice or care. The strike was really ineffective for these reasons even though the unions had about 87% support of their members (MAPE/AFSCME).

So, I predict that if this shut-down lasts through the week -- and it looks like it will -- the only ones that will be whining and complaining are the laid off state employees who will be waiting for their first unemployment checks. And I'll never understand how government employees can, in good conscious, demand more from taxpayers when all they have to do is drive through their respective communities and see how many businesses are closed.

So what, you say. So another top-hatted plutocrat--this one going by the name Pat--wishes to see the budget balanced on the backs of the poor and middle class while protecting his rich cronies.

By the way, I am a state employee and completely support the conservative Republicans in this battle -- a battle we have to have and be willing to have.