The Blog

Rhode Island Controls Costs By Shutting Down Government for 12 Days

4:25 PM, Aug 26, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Someone's making the "tough choices" Obama always talks about, but never makes:

Rhode Island will shut down its state government for 12 days and hopes to trim millions of dollars in funding for local governments under a plan Gov. Don Carcieri outlined Monday to balance a budget hammered by surging unemployment and plummeting tax revenue.

The shutdown will force 81 percent of the roughly 13,550-member state work force, excluding its college system, to stay home a dozen days without pay before the start of the new fiscal year in July.

There will be "inconveniences for the public, and there are going to be sacrifices," said Gov. don Carcieri, but you ever notice how most government shut-downs aren't nearly as apocalyptic as big-government advocates claim they'll be. Here's a telling sentence in the tale of a government shut-down:

Critical workers such as state police, prison guards and child abuse investigators still will report to work during the shutdown, Carcieri said. He ruled out raising taxes to balance the budget and said the state cannot lay off more workers since it deeply trimmed its work force last year.

Kind of makes you wonder why Rhode Island is employing fully 81 percent of its work force if it's "non-critical" by the governor's standards.

Liberals will be quick to say I'm oversimplifying, and people are hurting, and the state simply must have every single dog catcher and child psychologist on its payroll. But that's nonsense. You show me a state government that runs at perfect efficiency, and I'll agree to vote for Barack Obama in 2012.

The fact is there's always a group that will make a lot of noise to keep any given segment of government pumping out money. But the fact that "critical" workers of R.I. will be the only ones on the clock for 12 days is an admission that most of them aren't "necessary," in the strictest sense of the word. Normal American families understand this concept in their own lives, when they're eliminating some of the family cell phones, premium cable channels, or meals at Ruby Tuesday in favor of keeping water, electricity and shelter. Indeed, many families are having to make much more drastic decisions.

It is not unreasonable to think the government should sometimes show the same ability to prioritize. If good economic times are an excuse for government to spend more money, and bad economic times are an excuse to spend even more (to stimulate the suffering, of course) there is no limit in sight. It's "unsustainable," as our liberal friends might say. The latest $9 trillion projected budget deficits, which the White House's own budget director called unsustainable just five months ago, are just the latest illustration of what can happen when there are no restraints in good times or in bad.