Government Shutdowns - My Personal Lesson

  • Friday, October 11, 2013
  • David Fowler

There are a handful of people in America, comparatively speaking, who have been part of a civil government shutdown as a politician. I am one of them.  Here’s what I learned and here’s what I think about what’s going on in Washington. 

The parallels between the government shutdown of which I was a part as a Tennessee state Senator are strikingly similar in principle — though not in size — to what is going on in Washington.

Like in Washington, where funding ObamaCare seems to be the major issue, just one central issue in Tennessee led to the shutdown in 2002.  In my case, the issue was an income tax.  Those who controlled the legislative process in Tennessee that session wanted to use the crisis of decreased revenue from an economic downturn to impose an income tax on Tennesseans. 

Similarly, even as the major media outlets all back ObamaCare, major media then in Tennessee (except for a couple of talk radio shows in Nashville and Knoxville) supported the income tax.

As in Washington, Tennessee’s Democratic legislative leaders, who controlled the flow of legislation at the state Capitol, would not let a budget get to the floor of the state House or Senate that would reduce spending or raise revenue by a means other than an income tax.  It was income tax or the highway. 

So a majority of the legislature, us little guys, said to the leadership: “We’re taking the next exit ramp off your one-way street.”  And state government essentially ground to a halt for several days.

What many don’t realize is that one of the things that finally killed the income tax bill was a proposal I offered that would have allowed Tennesseans to vote on whether they wanted an income tax.  Here’s why it became the final nail in the coffin of the income tax coffin, and the lesson I learned that I would commend to conservatives in Washington. 

When it came to the income tax, it took a few days for reality to set in, but legislative leaders knew eventually,  — probably the next election — they would be challenged to explain why they were so dead set on imposing an income tax, when there was a means by which the people could vote on it.

Who wants to run for re-election on the platform of stuffing something down the throat of people that they don’t want, and being willing to shut down the government to do so? 

Likewise, I think the same will prove true with what has been going on in Washington these two weeks.  Democrats will soon realize that in the next election they will need to explain why they were willing to shut down the government in order to shove an increasingly unpopular ObamaCare down the throat of the average American while giving big business a pass for another year.

How ironic.   The President who campaigned as the champion of the little guy and painted Mitt Romney as the evil champion of big business is sticking it to the little guy while protecting big business. 

So, as the shutdown lingers, Republicans must say repeatedly until they are blue in the face that there is only one reason for this train wreck:  an insistence by our President and the Democratic Senate majority to stick the average American with an unaffordable bureaucratic system to deliver health care.  And then ask the American people why they should trust this administration to deliver health care when it can’t even deliver a functional website?

The encouraging news is that the average American is beginning to wake up.  Some are beginning to revolt in their own little ways like: 

The man who re-opened his restaurant located on federal land;

The veterans who removed the barricades to the open-air monument that honored them; and 

The student who tore up his government-approved graduation speech and led the audience in the Lord’s Prayer. 

Perhaps the American spirit that said no to their oppressors in England 237 years ago is beginning to rise again against their oppressors in Washington.  I say, “Let it rise.”


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