Federal government shutdown would be inexcusable

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  • Dale Eisman

The government shutdown that appears increasingly likely to begin tomorrow night would be a hardship for millions of Americans and a breach of the public’s trust by members of Congress and the Obama administration, Common Cause said today.

“There is no excuse or good reason to shut down the government,” said Bob Edgar, president of the non-partisan government watchdog group. “Congress’ inability to agree on a budget is a damning indictment of all concerned.

“Since before President Obama took office, there has been a bipartisan consensus in Washington and across the country that job creation and economic recovery should be our top priority,” Edgar said. “Can anyone say with a straight face that shutting down the government moves us toward those objectives?”

A shutdown would put 800,000 Americans – federal workers who safeguard food and drug processing, issue passports, process Social Security applications and tax returns, guard our National Parks, see to it that our troops are paid on time and perform hundreds of other important services – immediately out of work.

Perhaps most ominously for our still-fragile economy, a shutdown is likely to cripple the housing market. The Federal Housing Administration now backs about 30 percent of new mortgage loans; when it shuts down, lenders will stop lending. In many communities and for thousands of prospective buyers who can afford only a minimal down payment, FHA loans are “the only game in town,” Sarah Wartell, a former FHA official told Politico this week.

“President Obama should have stepped in earlier to take a direct role in shaping the budget. The kind of leadership he’s demonstrated this week might have kept us from getting so close to the precipice if it came earlier,” Edgar said. “Congress, — Democrats and Republicans alike — should have thought long ago about how to pay for simultaneous wars so we don’t have to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, elderly and our children.

“But the lion’s share of blame for this looming crisis rests on the shoulders of conservative Republicans in Congress who’ve decided that making a political point about the importance of deficit reduction and other policy issues takes precedent over jobs and our economic recovery. It’s time for them to think about the public’s best interest, accept the substantial spending cuts already on the negotiating table, and come back to fight another day, on the next budget, if they believe so strongly in their objectives.”