The standoff between Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislators is the result of stark ideological differences. Dayton would balance the budget by hiking taxes on the top 2-percent of income earners, while the Republicans oppose any and all tax increases, preferring instead to slash funding to social programs. While I don’t at all wish to downplay these differences, I think Twin Cities United Way blogger Liz Peterson is really on to something when she insists that “we can’t afford a government shutdown.”
Last Friday, layoff notices went out to 36,000 government workers. If the state is looking to balance its budget, adding tens of thousands of workers to the unemployment rolls is probably not the most effective strategy. On top of this, as Peterson points out, the MnSCU system is poised to lose business in the fall as students worried about whether or not classes will be held consider attending schools in nearby states. And then there is all of the revenue lost from the closing of state parks and rest areas. Peterson draws the right conclusion: “To increase spending because we can’t agree about how to decrease spending is ludicrous.”
Even more troubling than the economic toll of a government shutdown is the human cost. According to a recent Star Tribune article
The state Department of Human Services started notifying hundreds of thousands of clients on Tuesday that they might lose access to health care assistance and other services if Minnesota government shuts down on July 1.
Notices mailed out to 572,000 health care, cash and food support clients informed them that “you may have trouble getting health care services” in the event of a shutdown. Similar notices were sent to 42,500 child care assistance recipients and providers, as well as 7,000 recipients of adoption assistance.
Many of our food shelf clients rely on SNAP and other programs to meet their needs. Take those programs away and HQB could have difficulty keeping up with the demand — worsening an already bad situation for those who rely on government assistance.
Compromise is — or should be — what politics is all about. If we can’t compromise, everybody loses. But especially the most vulnerable.