EDITORIAL: Take it from Illinois, this government shutdown is cruel and dumb

SHARE EDITORIAL: Take it from Illinois, this government shutdown is cruel and dumb

President Donald Trump tours the U.S. border with Mexico at the Rio Grande on the southern border, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. | AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Take it from Illinois, this federal government shutdown is nothing but bad.

And the man at the top will get most of the blame, as he should.

For those of us who just lived through four years of such stupidity in Illinois, there’s a sense of deja vu in a partial government shutdown forced by a self-adoring man of business habituated to getting his way.


Just as President Donald Trump is holding the federal government hostage to his demand for a border wall, Gov. Bruce Rauner refused to approve a state budget for more than two years unless the Legislature granted him a wish list of non-budgetary and union-busting “reforms.”

Ultimately, Rauner got nothing for his obstinacy but a ticket out of town, courtesy of the voters, and the same can’t happen soon enough for Trump.

The cost to Illinois was enormous, as it is sure to be for the nation.

By the end of the stalemate, Illinois had run up more than $15 billion in unpaid bills and $1 billion in late payment penalties. The state’s credit rating had fallen to just short of junk status, and hundreds of state-funded social service agencies had been forced to cut back on services to children, the disabled and the elderly.

In a similar way now, some 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or are working without pay as a result of the partial federal government shutdown, and they soon will have to figure out how to pay their rent or mortgage. Government entities, such as national parks, are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected fees, and private-sector businesses that rely on government contracts are taking a hit, as well.

Fitch Ratings warned this week that the government’s credit rating will be downgraded if the shutdown continues, according to Politico, and Trump’s own chief economist pegs the overall cost to the U.S. economy at about $1.2 billion for each week the shutdown persists.

Take it from Illinois, the most responsible end to this absurdity would be for level-headed Republicans in the U.S. Senate to join Democrats in passing legislation that reopens the government while negotiations continue on border security. Something like this played out in Springfield in 2017 when Republican state legislators, who’d had enough of Rauner’s stubbornness, finally joined Democrats in approving a budget — and in overriding the governor’s veto.

The stalemate ended when Republicans remembered that the Legislature is an equal branch of government.

We wish the same would happen in Washington now.

An alternative resolution, pushed by a demoralized Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., until Thursday afternoon, would be for Democrats to agree to Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the wall in exchange for legalizing the 3.6 million undocumented “dreamers” who came to the United States as children.

On the face of it, that might sound like a plan. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in fact, offered Trump that very deal exactly one year ago. But the president rejected it then, and you can bet he would again. The Leader of the Free World is so terribly afraid of being scolded by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

There’s another problem with that plan, as well. Trump has done such a bang-up job of demonizing every wretched man, woman and child coming across the southern border that his wall is no longer just a wall. It is a toxic symbol of bigotry and hate.

Democrats in the past have voted for funding for barriers along the border, even when they didn’t think it was necessary. But this was before Trump made “build the wall” a rallying cry for the worst xenophobes, trashing undocumented immigrants as a bunch of terrorists, killers, rapists and drug-runners.

Trump did it again in his Oval Office address on Tuesday, ignoring the statistical evidence that undocumented immigrants are less criminally inclined than the rest of us, and going on and on about “sex crimes” and “violent killings” and “murder” and “rape” and “meth, heroin, cocaine.”

Why would any decent person agree to a wall sold on the basis of the vilest lies?

That leaves Trump with the option of declaring a state of emergency. Which he probably will. Even though there isn’t one.

Even if that maneuver doesn’t get him his wall, given the likely lawsuits over constitutional questions, it will placate his base, which is all he cares about.

The longer the shutdown continues, the more people will blame Trump and his fellow Republicans. We learned that in Illinois, too, where Rauner’s approval ratings fell through the floor as the budget stalemate dragged on. Rauner’s chief nemesis, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, caught grief, too, but today he’s sitting on a new supermajority.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted this week showed that nearly half of voters, 47 percent, say Trump is mostly to blame for the shutdown, while another 5 percent blame congressional Republicans. Only 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress.

Take it from Illinois: A government shutdown gets you nowhere.

It’s like hitting your head against a wall.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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