Donald Trump struggles to read a dictionary (illustrated)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or policies of Debt.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or policies of Debt.com.

Every year, the major English dictionaries each come out with a word they think represents the times.

Dictionary.com’s was a cutting choice: “complicit.” Merriam-Webster also went political, with “feminism.”

Oxford’s was “youthquake,” which I’ve never heard a single person use before. They say it is “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.” Apparently it’s a thing British people say with some regularity? Whatever. They can’t all be good.

I enjoy words of the year, and even came up with some of my own a couple years ago. I figured I would do it again, also in a political context. I think the word of 2018 should be: shutdown. As in, a federal government shutdown. ( Because “gross fiduciary negligence” is a mouthful.)

The running theme: No budget

The most basic task of Congress is funding the operation of the federal government. It has an obligation to pay for everything it has made legal and necessary.

It’s a job that, frankly, Congress sucks at.

Senators have repeatedly complained about the half-baked way they keep funding things in dribs and drabs, and it’s big news in a year when an actual budget passes.

Here’s a pretty good explanation of how federal budgeting’s supposed to go, and how it almost never does. Instead, the new normal is a “continuing resolution” that funds the government for a few months at a time.

We had one in September. We had one in December. We have a deadline for one this month, Jan. 19. And we’ll keep having them all year, and they’ll all probably be pretty short-term, and each one will come with new consequences.

Holding spending hostage

The Republicans just scored their first and only political victory since Trump’s election: the tax bill. It sure would look bad if, a month later, the federal government shut down because they couldn’t pay for things right after lowering taxes.

So they almost certainly won’t let that happen this month, no matter what the cost. Democrats know that, so in exchange for their votes on funding the next continuing resolution, they’re going to make demands.

Those demands include funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Congress let lapse last year and which could leave many kids uninsured and at risk early as this month as states run out of funding from it. They also include disaster relief funding for areas slammed by the 2017 hurricanes, and protections for the undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”

Republicans, of course, do the same thing when the shoe is on the other foot. In fact, they actually did shut down the federal government in 2013 over Obamacare. It lasted almost three weeks and caused damage to America’s credit rating and about $20 billion in gross domestic product.

There was financial damage to many small businesses that rely on the government being open (for instance, tourism companies that operate near federal lands, parks and museums, or companies trying to secure Small Business Administration loans) and a massively inconvenience to millions of people. New retirees couldn’t sign up for Social Security. Military personnel weren’t getting their paychecks. Investors didn’t have fresh Labor Department data to rely on.

So, even Congress knows shutdowns are bad news, and they really do try to avoid them. But in a roundabout way, like trying to avoid a heart attack by ordering a Diet Coke with your Double Quarter Pounder and large fries instead of eating healthier and working out.

They never make an earnest effort to fix the underlying problem, the lack of a proper budget. The financial recklessness of Congress becomes a double-edged sword — and for now it’s Democrats’ to wield. And with the loss of Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat to Doug Jones, Republicans have even less wiggle room to avoid such bargaining going into 2018.

I predict the year will be full of little concessions to Democrats to avoid a shutdown, which will enrage Trump supporters but probably benefit many of them.

Article last modified on August 23, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: This Is the Financial Word of the Year - AMP.

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Article last modified on August 23, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC .