It sounds harsh and cruel, but U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's threat to shut down all but essential federal government services if the Democrats on Capitol Hill can't actually reign in spending is not only the fiscally responsible approach, it is also one that would be popular with the public.
Enough with the gamesmanship of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the silliness of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. It's time for Republicans to let America know that the GOP means business -- cut the budget deeply, or shut her down!
In January, InsiderAdvantage conducted a national survey of voters who identified themselves as either Republicans or independent voters. Those two demographic segments make up the majority of the nation's current electorate. In the survey, we recited in a very straightforward manner the shutdown of government that House Republicans imposed in November 1995 and then again from Dec. 16, 1995, until Jan. 6, 1996.
Then we asked, "What is your opinion of the actions the Republican-led majority took in temporarily shutting down nonessential services for short periods of time to, in the words of their leader, 'prove to the president we were serious about a balanced budget?'" Seventy-one percent had a favorable opinion of that shutdown, and 59 percent said they had a "very favorable" opinion of it. (We polled more than 1,000 respondents, for a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.)
Boehner has been portrayed as a middle-of-the-road, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat speaker. It's said that he is trying to hold together a fractious GOP conference of House members. That is a typical Washington, inside-the-Beltway attempt to oversimplify both a man and his party.
Here's the truth: Republicans know darn well that they must put their money -- or the lack thereof -- where their mounts were last November. That means they must back up their campaign promises then with meaty budget cuts now. And no, the White House's proposal of a largely symbolic freeze on new (and higher) spending won't suffice.
A genuine, GOP-backed shutdown would most likely happen if the House refused to pass a continuing resolution for the long-suffering budget that was to be passed last year; or if there was an effort to sustain spending at its current, bloated levels.
That would mean that in early March, the federal government would no longer have funding. What a wonderful, liberating feeling that would be! Imagine a week or two of no federal government -- save the military and other essential services. No mindless work at the Department of Education. No new administrative edicts at the Environmental Protection Agency. The list could go on and on.
Having ridden one of these shutdowns out with a former Republican speaker, I can already prepare folks for what they know already will happen. The media establishment in New York and Washington will skewer Boehner and the Republicans. They'll claim that the speaker is caving in to the "tea party" element of his Republican House membership.
Then the stories will pop up about some poor souls who didn't get some services or entitlements that government usually delivers. There will be stories of government workers, stuck in their freezing houses without a job. Hearts will bleed, and those brilliant women on "The View" will probably work themselves up into such frenzy that, save the show's one conservative token host, they will all stomp off the stage in protest, or at least we can only hope so.
President Barack Obama and Sen. Reid simply did not get the message that the American people sent them in November. That Obama's approval ratings have risen, for what I consider to have been an adequate job of dealing with the Egyptian crisis, should not be misread as an endorsement of his fiscal policies or his domestic agenda.
If anything, Americans are horrified to learn that they sent billions of dollars to support an ally, only to learn that the dictatorial leader of Egypt likely skimmed much of the money off for himself. That's hardly "foreign aid you can believe in."
The GOP must stand its ground on the budget deficit, regardless of what the so-called "mainstream media" thinks about their efforts. It only took two short shutdowns before former President Bill Clinton started working toward deficit reductions and a balanced budget. Let's see if President Obama will learn the same lesson, and by the same hard way.