Troy professor: Shutdown is for show

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013

National parks are closed, 800,000 federal workers are off the job and other government services halted during a government shutdown that began Tuesday – all in the name of show, according to a local Troy University professor.

“Largely, this is a political show,” said Dr. Dan Smith, assistant professor of economics at Troy University. “It amazes me the extent to which politicians are threatening to cut off essential services to make political points.”

Smith shared that the nation is currently $211 trillion in debt.

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“There is a ton of pork barrel spending and wasteful expenditures going on at all levels of government,” Smith said. “We had these exact same debates last year. This shutdown wasn’t out of the blue.”

Smith said the nation’s out-of-control spending and current debt will likely result in one or more of three things – future taxation, future inflation or default on promises, obligations or the country’s debt.

“Raising the debt ceiling year after year is almost like a kid spending their lunch money by Wednesday of each week,” Smith said, noting a child would likely come asking for more money to make it through Friday. “They are going to continue that behavior and that is what is happening now with politicians.”

Smith said it is hard to predict how long the government shutdown will continue.

“It all depends upon how long the political wrangling goes on,” Smith explained. “My prediction would be that we are going to get another short-term fix to this problem and we are going to have this debate again next year and the year after that. In the long term, this is going to affect every American citizen if we don’t address the underlying problem.”

And that problem is out-of-control spending, Smith said.

According to the Economic Freedom of the World Report released just two weeks ago, the United States has slipped from number two in the world with regard to economic freedom to number 17. That’s behind Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, Smith said.

“One of the primary reasons is out-of-control spending,” Smith noted.

Cutting back on spending is a lot like trying to lose weight, Smith used as an analogy.

“We all know eating vegetables is good for us, it’s just committing yourself to actually carrying things out to actually lose weight,” Smith said. “People have to realize that the government can’t continue to make these over commitments. We can’t count on Social Security to be there. It is an unsustainable program.”

Instead, Smith suggests, Americans should begin taking responsibility for their own futures, including retirement.

“Social security is a non-essential program and one in which the government is very inefficient in providing,” Smith said.