Yvonne Abraham

Miss your government yet?

Thomas Peipert/associated press

Could absence make the heart grow fonder when it comes to this idiotic shutdown?

Americans love to complain about how awful the federal government is: how bloated and downright useless so much of it seems. In surveys, they say they believe the federal government wastes a whopping 50 cents of every tax dollar.

Half of all federal spending unnecessary? Now, where would they get that idea?


From the GOP, mostly. Starting in earnest with the sainted Ronald Reagan, Republicans have made the caricature of profligate government central to their message.

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“Government is not the solution to the problem,” Reagan said in his first inaugural address. “Government is the problem.”

As he does with most things, President Donald Trump has turned the dial on his party’s article of faith up to 11. He casts the federal government as something sinister and separate from the American people, thieving taxpayers’ hard-won dollars for its own dark purposes.

Of course, it’s way easier to cut programs for the environment and the poor and, more importantly, to hand out tax cuts to the rich, if you convince voters government can’t be trusted with their money.

But hey, it turns out the federal government actually does stuff!


You only have to look at the ripples of hardship this shutdown is causing to see that. It goes way beyond the hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families facing lost or delayed paychecks, though that’s bad enough. And its cruelty reaches beyond the stereotypical recipients of federal help — the poor families who rely on the government for food and housing aid, though cutting support for them is unconscionable, too.

Everybody relies on the federal government to some degree.

Do you like fact that bags are inspected for bombs and firearms at the airport? Do you prefer that planes do not crash on runways? Those luxuries come courtesy of federal workers — who are currently working without pay in a system that is already understaffed.

Are you among the fuss-budgets who prefer their greens without a side of E.coli? Inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration would help make that happen for you, but hundreds of them have been furloughed.

Do you like National Parks with working bathrooms and Joshua trees that haven’t been vandalized? Could you do without piles of garbage strewn about in our nation’s most storied and beautiful spots? Is your business one that benefits from such persnickety tourists? The folks who work to make the parks special for us are also federally-funded.


Sure, you hate the Internal Revenue Service. But it turns out it does some pretty important stuff, like helping verify mortgage applications, and sending out tax refunds. Already, the IRS has been starved by anti-tax politicians. More big-money cheats are getting away with their own tax code Trumpery, while those who earn little get more than their fair share of scrutiny. People seem fine with all of that, but delayed tax refunds? Unthinkable! And who processes those refunds? Don’t ask!

Even if you’re among those the president loves — say, an oil company looking for drilling permits, or a big wheel corporation looking for approval on a merger or an IPO — this shutdown hits you where it hurts, too.

Do you like the idea of prison guards supervising inmates? Does the notion of checking whether a prospective employee entered the country illegally warm your heart? Would you like immigration courts to keep processing cases? On it goes, but you get the idea.

If the president’s narcissistic snit over a border wall further prolongs his shutdown, more people will start noticing that the federal government they hate is responsible for many things they love.

They’ll also see that the party that sold them on the big lie is not the solution to the problem. It is . . . oh, you know the rest.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at and on Twitter @GlobeAbraham