The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

October 14, 2013

Shutdown driving debate over the role of government

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

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Republican leaders in Congress say they, too, want to see the government reopened. But there’s a prominent subtext in which many in the party take a far more unforgiving view of the bureaucracy.

“People are going to realize they can live with a lot less government,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., predicted early on.

Polls show people long have been divided on just what the government’s role should be.

An AP-GfK poll this month found that 60 percent of Americans favor a “smaller government providing fewer services” while 35 percent want a bigger government that does more.

A Gallup poll in early September found that 53 percent of Americans thought “the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses,” while 40 percent said the “government should do more to solve our country’s problems.”

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As the shutdown continues, a key question is how long people will hold firm to their old positions on the role of government.

Republican analyst Rich Galen said people who started out disliking the federal government are likely to look at the shutdown’s effects and say, “See, the world is still spinning on its axis, even with these shutdowns and those 800,000 people furloughed. Apparently we don’t need them. They’re not critical.”

But Galen added that every type of government spending “has a champion, and these are services that we are demanding.”

“When it’s your house that’s underwater or your house that got blown over by a tornado, boy, do you want FEMA there,” referring to the federal disaster relief agency.

William Galston, a former Clinton administration official, agreed that, at least initially, people were apt to see the shutdown through their own ideological prism.

But he added, “There is a real world out there. And as the consequences of the shutdown spread, as more and more normal government functions simply are unavailable and as people encounter problems that they didn’t expect, they will perhaps respond differently.”

Galston had his own example to cite, noting that a document he needs for research on a paper he’s writing suddenly became unavailable when the Library of Congress took down its website.

“I think a lot of people are going to discover that routine functions that they weren’t thinking about are going to be unavailable and the zone of inconvenience is going to expand,” he said.

———

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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