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Why Trump wants a government shutdown, and why he shouldn't | Editorial

Someone should tell Trump there have been 18 government shutdowns since the current budget process began in 1976. In each case, the consequences did not justify the cost.

President Trump has for months been threatening a government shutdown.
President Trump has for months been threatening a government shutdown.Read moreAP Photo / Andrew Harnik

The public can be forgiven if the manufactured distractions of President Trump have kept it from focusing on the possibility of another government shutdown, but people need to pay attention.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that he didn't think a budget deal could be made, which prompted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to back out of a meeting with Trump and Republican leaders.

Trump said it would be the Democrats' fault if the government shuts down without a budget, but he has been sounding like he wants a shutdown for months.

In May Trump tweeted, "Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" In August he told a rally crowd in Phoenix, "If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

The president continues to show himself to be a poor student of history. Someone should tell him there have been 18 government shutdowns since the current budget process began in 1976. In each case, the consequences did not justify the cost.

The last exercise in futility, from Oct. 1 to 16, 2013, occurred after Republicans tried to defund Obamacare. The shutdown put more than 800,000 federal employees out of work and cost the country an estimated $24 billion in economic output. Here's a breakdown of the other 17 shutdowns:

  1. Sept. 30-Oct. 11, 1976: After President Gerald Ford vetoed funding for the Department of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare.

  2. Sept. 30-Oct. 13, 1977: The House and Senate disagree on banning Medicaid for abortions except when the mother's life was in jeopardy.

  3. Oct. 31-Nov. 9, 1977: After a temporary agreement on abortion expired.

  4. Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 1977: Another temporary abortion agreement expired.

  5. Sept. 30-Oct. 18, 1978: After President Jimmy Carter vetoed funding for an aircraft carrier and water projects he said were not needed.

  6. Sept. 30-Oct. 12, 1979: The House and Senate again disagreed on a mother's "health" being a reason for Medicaid to cover abortion.

  7. Nov. 20-23, 1981: After President Ronald Reagan threatened to veto any spending bill without significant domestic budget cuts.

  8. Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 1982: After members of Congress, rather than work late, opted to attend social functions.

  9. Dec. 17-21, 1982: After Reagan threatened to veto appropriations bills that included public works spending to create jobs.

  10. Nov. 10-14, 1983: House Democrats wanted more education funds. Reagan wanted money for the MX missile.

  11. Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 1984: Reagan and Congress disagreed on crime prevention, water projects, and civil rights rules for universities.

  12. Oct. 3-5, 1984: A temporary budget pact expired before agreement is reached on the crime and water projects bills.

  13. Oct. 16-18, 1986: Reagan and House Democrats disagreed on several issues, including more funding for welfare families.

  14. Dec. 18-20, 1987: Reagan and Democrats disagreed on funding the Contra militants in Nicaragua.

  15. Oct. 5-9, 1990: President George H.W. Bush refused to sign the budget until it is paired with a deficit-reduction plan.

  16. Nov. 13-19, 1995: President Bill Clinton would not sign bills raising Medicare premiums and requiring a balanced budget in seven years.

  17. Dec. 5, 1995-Jan. 6, 1996: House Speaker Newt Gingrich led Republicans into a budget stalemate only to eventually accept Clinton's budget.

The country blamed Gingrich for the shutdown and put his political career in a downward spiral. That's a lesson Trump needs to consider. He insists he can pin blame for a shutdown on the Democrats. So did Gingrich.