Posted by | April 5, 2011 15:48 | Filed under: Top Stories

Ezra Klein spoke with John Cooney (pictured), who worked in the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration. Cooney explains that when preparations were made for shutdowns in the Reagan era, they were designed to help the president, not Congress, and that it’s more difficult to do them now than it was then. Programs designed then to deal with this issue are still in place today.

The federal workforce is different today than it was then. Now you have many more contract employees carrying out functions. In an agency like the Department of Homeland Security, you might have a few civil servants and a lot of contract employees working on the same problem. The old model where we had federal employees working on things and contractors delivering is not how things work anymore.

Take the IT departments. I’m sure no one considered whether those positions were shutdown-exempt or not when the contracts were written. Do you have to keep Web sites up to date? A lot of the way the public communicates with the government is online now. Do you put up an intercept page informing the public the Web site is unavailable and there’s no place to leave a message? And what about for the workers?

…the shutdown plan was designed for two purposes: to make sure the president continued to carry out his constitutional duties and to make sure the president could run the government effectively during a shutdown, which would in turn strengthen his hand with Congress. Notice that each time there’s been a shutdown the public has supported his position and he’s come out in better shape. The plan was designed to make sure the executive branch looked competent and to help attract support for his position.

The 1995 shutdown cost $200 million.

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By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.