On the way home to Northern Virginia from Washington, DC earlier this week I decided to take the metro. The partial federal government shutdown has made traffic a little easier, however, it had been some time since I took the train home.
With very few exceptions, mostly tourists that brave the trains at that time, the local rush hour crowd is a quiet bunch. Yet no sooner had I taken a seat, a nice lady from USAID asked me if I worked for the government? I told that I was in private practice, but all she, and folks around here appear to have heard, was that I used to work in the Congress.
I had several pair of eyes and turned heads looking right at me. If looks could cause lethal injury, I may have needed an ICU right about that moment. So, I repeated, “used to work in the Congress … many many years ago and there were no shutdowns back then.” The train was quiet no longer and all you could hear around our area of the car was a lot of laughter. And laughter is all one can really do when politicians from both political parties fail to reach an agreement to keep the government open.
For those of you not from these parts, Northern Virginia is home to many federal workers and their families. The Commonwealth does a lot of business with the federal government and there is a high concentration of entities in Northern Virginia. The Pentagon, just four miles from my house, is in Arlington. And there are many more nearby including the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center, INS, DISA, US Marshals Service, DIA, FDIC, CIA, NGA, USGS, and many more.
Unlike other regions of the country, the impact of a federal government shutdown, even a partial one, are immediately felt my hundreds of thousands of families. If it continues long enough, the local economy that depends on these entities for all type of contract work and they too will feel the pinch. This goes for taxi cab drivers, restaurants, hotels. You name it. Even though I’m a Republican, and strongly believe that the federal government needs a whole lot of fixing and fiscal fat trimming, a prolonged federal government shutdown is really not the best way to deal with important policy issues.
Without the private sector, there can be no federal government. Yet there are a lot of elected officials, lobbyists, and media personalities making, at times, somewhat cavalier remarks and headlines about why shutting down the government is or is not a good idea. Most of the time these type of comments are made by people who do not live in these parts or have not lived here long enough to appreciate the many nuances of the federal budgeting process. It is broken. It has been for decades.
At the core of most of my client’s problems can be traced to over-regulation and inefficiencies in the system that will take decades to improve. Judging from the debate the past few days, neither party has the interest or political power to engage in meaningful reform. So we are left with governing by continuing resolution or CRs. This is not the first time we’ve been through this and it will not be the last. Now that the political battle lines have been drawn, let’s see what consensus solution is arrived at because this one is no laughing matter.
As for my home state Virginia, what does this all mean? Unlike other parts of the country, most of the state has enjoyed a great deal of economic growth the past few years. Experts claim that this boom will come to pass, possibly as a result of ongoing belt-tightening by the federal government in the defense industries. I think we will do just fine over the long haul, but even so, you can bet the Virginians are paying very close attention to what folks across the river will do the next few weeks. Remember what I said earlier in this post, without the private sector, there can be no federal government.