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Government shutdown: TLS certificates not renewed, many websites are down (zdnet.com)
87 points by sanqui 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments





From reddit:

> This article is overly hyperbolic. Some obscure subdomains of government websites are serving expired x509 certificates. They're not down and this definitely doesn't compromise the encryption that protects any login credentials. Anyway, it is embarassing to see certificate renewal is not automated - it's something any good sysadmin would have set up.

https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/aeps41/governme...


Nothing to do with SSL, but a fair amount of US government websites are hard down, on purpose, due to the funding dilemma.

Like: https://www.data.gov

"Due to a lapse in government funding all Data.gov websites will be unavailable until further notice."

Which is pretty odd, because putting up these blocker pages probably costs more than just letting the sites run unattended.


Government departments are legally required to budget for the possibility of a shutdown, which means they have to keep the money around that they will use to shut down.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antideficiency_Act


Yes, but this coupled with the fact they shut down things that don't otherwise really require a human to actively working proves that it's all just a political ploy.

> .. proves that it's all just a political ploy.

Security maintenance, keeping databases up, monitoring the various systems, risk of DDoS, answering to users' inquires, bandwidth... - it requires real money to keep any production site live.

Given that these folks are basically working without pay, I don't blame them for wanting to put a cover page saying "Sorry, we're down", and call it a day.


Many are not legally allowed to work for free or be ask people to work (I forget which). The range of people allowed to work (even for free) is pretty limited to dealing with loss of life or property.

Some bits no doubt require some human intervention, and if it wasn't updated, would cause confusion.

The census site seems to be a decent middle ground. Banner at the top says "NOTICE: Due to a lapse in federal funding portions of this website are not being updated." Still functional, but if something's not updated, you know why.


I don’t dispute that shutdowns are political ploys, but I don’t think that the actual implementations of shutting down are necessarily part of that ploy. Whether a human is required to run something is not the relevant factor. What’s relevant is the cost.

Bandwidth costs money. It's likely technically cheaper to serve a 404 than to serve the data. Besides that, it's not what costs less, it's what LOOKS like it costs less.

If saving money is the game, it's cheaper still to turn off the servers.

Well, bandwidth isn't free... Replacing a larger site for large data downloads with a simple 404 will certainly bring down costs.

Web sites are not maintenance free nor cost free. Sudden traffic spikes, hardware failures or new vulnerabilities can easily make web sites down. It need manual human intervention to restore. If that human intervention is not possible due to the law, It's best to just shutdown.

Maybe the worry is letting them run unattended when no one is allowed to do maintenance/security work in the event of a problem?

I guess, but it's likely the seldom used blocker page code has security and/or maintenance issues too.

Serving a static HTML page has security or maintenance issues? This is reaching IMO, short of the web server having a vuln, this shouldn't take much to create/maintain.

I have seen many real world bad "maintenance mode" implementations. Including things like "oops, we are now serving up scripts/configuration/etc as plain text".

Also in the above thread, were a few government workers. One explained it was policy to powerdown all servers, except the one hosting that error page, though they weren't aware of the reason for such a policy.

It's not just salaries, though, they technically have no budget. So there's no money to run the servers.

The blocker page is served from S3, which isn't free :)

Maybe they all put their loose change in a pot. Should last for a year or so!

isn't there a free micro instance option? or it was only free for a year?

micro (750 hours/mo) is part of the first 12 months free.

Maybe. I know nothing about the offerings of these sites but they may be replacing interactive sites where you can access services with a static page.

The page seems to be coming from S3, I see "Server: AmazonS3" in the headers, and some other typical Amazon headers. Also has Google Analytics, which is interesting for a Government website.

Some of these pages are on he HSTS preload list. Browsers won’t let you manually click through to accept the expired cert. Those are effectively down for all intents and purposes.

> They're not down and this definitely doesn't compromise the encryption that protects any login credentials

That is precisely what it does. Serving an invalid certificate and requiring user click-through allows for a man in the middle attacker to inject their own certificate without further error and will therefore be able to intercept login credentials.


>Anyway, it is embarassing to see certificate renewal is not automated - it's something any good sysadmin would have set up.

From the original article[1]: "One such example is https://ows2.usdoj.gov, a U.S. Department of Justice website which uses a certificate that expired in the week leading up the shutdown. The certificate has been signed by a trusted certificate authority, GoDaddy, but it has not been renewed since it expired on 17 December 2018."

It was probably already renewed, there's just no sysadmin to import the fresh cert. =]

[1] - https://news.netcraft.com/archives/2019/01/10/gov-security-f...


You can probably verify this yourself with crt.sh! I’m on mobile and busy, but it’s a fun game mucking through the certificates for various domain names.


> it is embarrassing to see certificate renewal is not automated

It's also pretty irresponsible to let certs get this close to expiration. Why weren't they renewed 60 days ago?


They can’t spend any money right now, it would have to be prepaid not just auto-renewed

It could also be free and automated (let’s encrypt)

Let’s Encrypt is used on some government sites like cloud.gov. It’s probably not reasonable for us to expect all government sites to be using it by now.

No these days with the way browsers handle certs its effectively down.

I handed this for one of the major beverage brands recently it was flagged when GA showed a massive decline - luckily it was one of the smaller noncore brands.


I've dealt with expired ssl certs on api servers run by school districts and no, they don't automate this stuff, neither do i for my own servers, shamefully.

i did some work for my state, and I couldn't automate ssl stuff, because the dept who handled the certs didn't provide for automation to be consumed - I got emailed certs (IIRC - been a couple of years now).

By contrast, for most projects, I have standard cert/le automatically updating every 2-3 months. LE was just becoming a thing a couple years ago, and they'd never heard of it. I'm not saying they should all use LE, but the initial time investment of providing an automated process to renew and update via API would pay dividends in the long run (but the people that feel that the most don't have the clout/power to lobby for such things, usually).


I work with many large health and insurance companies, although we recommend that this be automated and are fully capable, internal IT staff at the companies seem to need to complicate the matter for job security and require they are involved although we do all the certain, often they are delayed in action due to either incompetence or other job duties.

Not surprising to me to see this is the case for local and federal govt too.


One thing that the shutdown is doing is exposing were we have over dependencies on government.

Serious question for US members of HN: how do you tolerate these shutdowns?

I mean, apart from the loss of services, including websites, it seems like many federal workers aren't being paid. Will they be paid back after the shutdown impasse is resolved or is the money they didn't/couldn't earn lost to them. This seems unfair and, in the meantime, how are they supposed to go about their lives?

Overall it seems potentially damaging and disruptive for any organisation or individuals with dependencies on the government.

The reason I ask is I've been turning over what it might look like if a similar situation occurred in the UK, where it'a difficult to envisage a scenario that doesn't end with rioting in the streets.


Because it doesn't actually impact most people yet. Obviously that's cold comfort to the government workers who are currently unpaid, but I guess people are selfish.

The shutdown is a cumulative thing. For instance, the FDA food inspections aren't happening. For a week, it's not likely to make a big difference. But a month? Three months? Eventually people will get sick and it'll be a huge issue. TSA agents have mostly been coming to work at airports, but Friday was payday, and they didn't get paid. More and more will call out sick. Same with housing benefits, farming loans... right now they all have a direct impact on a few individuals. But once the numbers start growing the government will be forced to act.

This is now the longest shutdown the US has had, so we're in uncharted territory. It'll undoubtedly have a bigger effect than previous shutdowns. Trump has even said the shutdown could last months, but of course you'd be an idiot to take him at his word.


> Trump has even said the shutdown could last months, but of course you'd be an idiot to take him at his word.

Wait, why? I was considering this as a possibility before he said anything about it. It totally seems to me like this could go on for multiple months.


Better be resolved by March 1st or Fitch plans to lower the us credit rating.

Trump uses A LOT of hyperbole. It can be difficult to know when to take him literally, which is part of his likeability problem. His supporters claim you should take him seriously but not literally. I have a hard time with it, since I tend to be a literal-minded person.

Oh, I'm not saying it couldn't happen. Just that what Trump says about it is pretty worthless.

My wife came home yesterday and told me that her work said if the shutdown continues in late February - March that they'll probably have to cut her position along with others at her workplace (they're federally-funded).

If that happens, I will likely be forced to quit my current job as well and find a higher paying job to help compensate while she looks for new work. I'm currently paid under market rate, but I love my job, so I'd prefer to stay where I'm at instead of look for other work to make up for our loss of income.

If this shutdown continues, I think people severely underestimate the negative impact it's going to have on this country. There's going to be a lot of pain and transitions that will have to happen.

If he really wants this wall funded, he should go through the normal channels. It's difficult to see how this isn't anything but a temper tantrum.


His base wants the temper tantrum and the shutdown. The fact of the matter is, Trump hasn't lost any ground in his approval rating over this yet.

With that being said, Democrats don't want the wall. They were pretty much elected to stop the wall and have a huge majority in the House. I don't see how this gets resolved at all.

To have the shutdown end, the House (Democrats), Senate (Republicans), and President have to agree on a singular solution. In the past, the general agreement has been "Lets keep the budget numbers the same and argue about this later".

But the typical plan has failed, Trump is doubling down on the wall (+$5.7 Billion added to the budget), and his base loves it.


> House (Democrats), Senate (Republicans), and President have to agree on a singular solution

The House and Senate can override the president with a super majority. They don't technically need the president's approval.

However getting a super majority in the senate to override a veto will be difficult as most Republicans see loyalty to Trump as important for re-election.


> The House and Senate can override the president with a super majority. They don't technically need the president's approval.

Senate is the place where bills die. You've got not only the Republican-controlled majority, but Democrats can filibuster anything they disagree with in the Senate.

So to pass the Senate normally, you need to have Republicans agree, Democrats "Not Protest".

A Supermajority Senate override of a veto is 67 votes (out of 100). Frankly, I don't see that ever happening in the current political climate.


The Senate unanimously agreed to a spending bill near the end of 2018. The 2019 House passed a version of that bill, and that went to the 2019 Senate, where McConnell won't let it come up for a vote.

So, we do have a spending plan available that does have widespread approval among both parties in the Senate, enough to override a veto if the Senators who support it would also support overriding a veto.


That was before Trump put forth his intention to veto.

Republicans don't want to fracture the party and embarrass themselves with such a vote. McConnell will never let the bill come back to the floor.


I think it’s more accurate to say the Democrats (and many of their supporters) don’t want a Trump success. Most or all of the current players that were in office in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and the same applies to the 2013 Senate immigration overhaul. It has little to do with the subject of the budget allocation and everything to do with obstructing (for better or worse depending on your own views).

Politics in the US has devolved into a strictly two-party system where it’s more important for the other side to fail than be able to hold their success up, where it has ceased to be about what’s best for our civilization and more about grabbing and holding on to as much power as possible, our rights be damned. I don’t hold the Republicans or Democrats any higher in this.


The way to view this and previous shutdowns is to blame the party that isn't willing to vote for the CR. That's the party taking the government hostage to achieve their political goals.

What does "CR" mean?

"Continuing Resolution". It's a bill to keep funding the government at the rate determined by the last past budget.

CR means to pass last year's budget (for only a few months), so that you can get more time to debate without people's paychecks getting lost.

Trump + Republicans have veto'd the CR, meaning they want the shutdown to put more pressure for the Wall.


> Most or all of the current players that were in office in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006

...and in retrospect that turned out to be ineffective and probably not worth the money. I'm happy if the people still around who voted for it learned from that and instead support more effective border security methods instead of simply repeating old mistakes on a larger scale.


> I think it’s more accurate to say the Democrats (and many of their supporters) don’t want a Trump success. Most or all of the current players that were in office in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and the same applies to the 2013 Senate immigration overhaul.

The Democrats offered +$1.3 Billion to boarder security. Its literally passed the House already. Proof is in the pudding, Democrats ALREADY passed such a bill weeks ago. The Democrats are have already accepted +Fences at the boarder.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-joint-res...

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/21/t...

If Trump dials back his rhetoric and asks for a fence, I bet you this shutdown will end. Heck, if the Senate takes up the Democrats's +$1.3 Billion offer, this whole thing could be over on Monday.

Senate hasn't passed a bill yet in any case. As I said earlier: the Senate is where bills typically die. Nothing new there. But Republicans don't want a fence, they want a wall. Otherwise, they would have passed H.J Res.1 / HR 21 already.

Trump's base wants a wall. That's where the debate is stuck right now. They aren't accepting a fence.


[flagged]


What, exactly, does your comment add other than complaining about some imaginary entitlement strawman?

Government jobs are far from secure depending on the department you work in and the fact that a lot of people are suffering because of pure political grandstanding is something I would hope anyone can relate to. Whether it's through having bad management hurt the workers, CEO nonsense or more. Of course anyone can lose their job and if you've ever gone through the pain of being laid off, you should be able to relate.


It's not imaginary. How often do you see people being interviewed on the news and bringing their babies into view? I'm not complaining that people are hurt by their funding, I'm complaining about how they're using their alleged personal struggles as political weapon.

Anyway, I'm not intending to get into a flamewar again. Let's just agree to disagree.


If you weren't intending to get into a flamewar, you wouldn't have effectively called the parent comment entitled. People use their struggles as a 'political weapon' because it turns out, when people are harmed by politics they want to share how politics harm them.

> Serious question for US members of HN: how do you tolerate these shutdowns?

I realize this is being portrayed in the media as a total government shutdown, but that's really not the case.

The US has multiple levels of government. Federal, State, County, and Municipal.

State, County, and Municipal governments (which are the ones that really provide essential services), are operating normally.

For the Federal government, any self-sufficient or quasi-self-sufficient operations (like the USPTO, USPS, etc.) are unaffected. Any operations that already had their budgets passed are unaffected.

We're talking about a fraction of the total government here. There's more drama here than anything else.

Yes, there are people whose lives are affected, but they're a small fraction of the population. I believe there were estimates of 400k? Even if we bump that up to a million to be conservative, we're talking about 0.25% of the population.


> For the Federal government, any self-sufficient or quasi-self-sufficient operations (like the USPTO, USPS, etc.) are unaffected. Any operations that already had their budgets passed are unaffected.

Wrong. The Federal Budget was done in steps. Only 25% of the government was under debate on Dec 2017, so only that 25% of the Federal Government was shutdown.

In 2014 (IIRC), there WAS a total government shutdown for a few days.

> We're talking about a fraction of the total government here. There's more drama here than anything else.

25% of the federal government is roughly 800,000 workers who have gotten a $0.0 paycheck yesterday, while most of them were forced to keep working.

Most noticably: Boarder Patrol Agents, TSA Agents, US Air Marshals, and Air Traffic Control agents. They ALL got $0.0 paychecks.

IRS is also affected: the entirety of the IRS got $0 paycheck yesterday.

The fact that airports keep working are because these TSA Agents + Air Traffic controllers have decided that keeping the airports open are more important than getting a paycheck. Salute them next time you see one and thank them for their sacrifice. Airports literally can't function without air-traffic control, and TSA have a thankless job.


The TSA have a thankless job for good reason: it is a useless, ineffective waste of money. Why would I be thankful to someone for harassing me?

> Only 25% of the government was under debate on Dec 2017, so only that 25% of the Federal Government was shutdown.

That's what I said.

> 25% of the federal government is roughly 800,000 workers who have gotten a $0.0 paycheck yesterday, while most of them were forced to keep working.

I calculated off of a million, so that's still below that.

> The fact that airports keep working are because these TSA Agents + Air Traffic controllers have decided that keeping the airports open are more important than getting a paycheck.

Pretty sure they're required to keep working by law?

> Salute them next time you see one and thank them for their sacrifice.

What? What sacrifice? They're going to get paid when this is over. They also took the job knowing something like this happens every other year. This is not new.


> What? What sacrifice? They're going to get paid when this is over.

A delay'd paycheck is certainly a sacrifice for a number of people. Not everyone has emergency funds saved up, and a lot of people live paycheck to paycheck.

> They also took the job knowing something like this happens every other year. This is not new.

This is one of the few times a shutdown has lasted long enough to actually cause a missed paycheck. The last cases where a shutdown caused a missed paycheck was 2014, and before that 1995.

Its certainly not "normal".


The USPTO is potentially affected. They are self funded, but rely on legislation to give them permission to use the funds. So if thenshitdown goes on for another 4-5 weeks, the PTO might have to shut down. Not because they don’t have the money, but they don’t have legal authority to use it.

One reason is because local government is operating normally, and local government (not federal) functions are what impacts people's lives the most. For all the attention federal issues garner, local government has a much larger impact on day to day life in the US.

Same in the UK, one of the reasons that it annoys the hell out of me that local government isn't taken more seriously by the electorate.

A lot of people just aren't affected visibly, and I guess people don't usually riot about things that don't anger them. Not sure how those that are affected are getting by. To me these shutdowns (and lack of pay) should be bringing down the US government's credit rating.

since the US dollar is the world's reserve currency you probably don't want the credit rating dropping even if you're not an american.

the shutdown is maddening but we seem to have come to accept it as a normal escalation tactic. what concerns me more is the move away from norms to laws restraining the executive branch. that can potentially reduce the effectiveness of future presidents and shift the careful balance of federal power in ways we may not like. but on the flip side, i'm glad the federal government has been shown (so far) to be resilient to an inept president.


The resilience is a surprise but great so far as an institution. For how long and whether there is a last x on camels back ...

No noticeable impact to me or anyone I know what so ever. The only thing I can’t do is go to a park near the river it’s part of the National Parks system which is shutdown.

Most services I need are run by my state. I can’t really think of anything federal I need beside the IRS in February.

I generally feel bad for federal employees in my area. My credit union is extending interest free loans and some banks are allowing people to postpone mortgage payments. There are two sides to the coin and many banks are actually giving predetory type loans.


> Serious question for US members of HN: how do you tolerate these shutdowns?

> Overall it seems potentially damaging and disruptive for any organisation or individuals with dependencies on the government.

Most people do not have dependencies on the government. You could live through a shutdown without noticing it had happened if not for the news coverage.


Not if you enjoy eating food or flying. Or are dependent on SNAP benefits. Or are a Native American. Or are trying to use constituent services with a freshman member of Congress.

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/09/683642605/how-is-the-shutdown...


Last I checked, grocery stores and restruants are still open and planes are still in the sky. The remainder are people who are on the invisible end of society.

This isn't to say that the shutdown isn't a big deal but it should be grounded in the reality of who and what it actually affects.

The typical American could, at this point, realistically not notice anything is happening if it weren't for the news.


grocery stores and restruants are still open

I'm not saying they're closed; I'm talking about food inspections. Remember the romaine scare from November? Guess what won't be flagged early during this government shutdown?

While people should take seriously the recent outbreak of E. coli food poisoning that triggered the alert, the fact that it was flagged early shows that the agency once known as the CDC deserves its upgraded name as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-pe...

-----

Also, let's talk about this:

The remainder are people who are on the invisible end of society... it should be grounded in the reality of who and what it actually affects.

44 million Americans use SNAP benefits. 5 million Americans are of indigenous descent. 800,000 Americans employed by the federal government are not getting paychecks. Some ostensibly large percentage of the 3.7 million federal contractors are not getting paychecks. That's about one-sixth of the population of the United States. Maybe typical Americans should pay more attention to their neighbors and friends.


The romaine/E. coli scare in November was first detected by doctors and hospitals who reported infections to the CDC, which is still open.

It might be harder for the FDA to track down the source of a similar outbreak now, since they are partially (but not completely) shut down, but we would know about it.


> Maybe typical Americans should pay more attention to their neighbors and friends.

None of the groups you listed are uniformly distributed across society. "Six social groups each containing 0 people on food stamps, and one social group in which people are mostly on food stamps" is closer to reality than "seven social groups each of which have about 1/7 of the membership on food stamps".

The whole point of living in a nice neighborhood is that none of your neighbors or friends are on food stamps.


>The whole point of living in a nice neighborhood is that none of your neighbors or friends are on food stamps.

Can you explain further? Because it sure sounds like you're somehow equating people being on food stamps as being bad neighbors or friends. I'd like you to explain your logic here.


A neighborhood full of people on food stamps is a bad neighborhood. Those people are the people who the residents of good neighborhoods are trying to stay away from.

They are fairly likely to be good neighbors to each other, in that impoverished people are generally part of a favor-trading network with family and neighbors. But they are undesirable neighbors to other people.


And where, exactly, is your proof? Why would people be on food stamps be considered bad for a neighborhood, and what do you mean by 'Those people'? What makes them 'undesirable'?

I've lived near people on food stamps before, either due to temporary circumstances or permanent ones. I'd like you to properly explain your reasoning here considering it's ringing 'White Flight' alarms in my head.


> I'd like you to properly explain your reasoning here considering it's ringing 'White Flight' alarms in my head.

This... sounds like you agree that the residents of good neighborhoods are trying to stay out of bad ones. What are you trying to dispute?


I hate that the government is shut down. It's stupid that people's livelihoods are a bargaining chip, especially when every administration talks about increasing jobs.

But it hasn't personally affected me yet. I am not a government employee and at the moment I am not in need of any of the government services that are shut down.

As for if they will get paid afterward, well legally the government cannot promise that. Legally it's possible that the new budget may even disband something like the TSA and all of the workers who have been working for free would be even more screwed. But historically every shutdown ended with giving back pay to the workers who had to work for free. They just can't guarantee it.


> As for if they will get paid afterward, well legally the government cannot promise that. Legally it's possible that the new budget may even disband something like the TSA and all of the workers who have been working for free would be even more screwed. But historically every shutdown ended with giving back pay to the workers who had to work for free. They just can't guarantee it.

Yes and no. Excepted service employees, which includes most of the TSA, are guaranteed to receive back pay for time worked during the shutdown, as agencies are required to pay for services performed. However, Congress and the President must pass and a sign a bill explicitly paying workers who were furloughed (i.e., non-essential and non-excepted employees).

As the shutdown continues, excepted and essential workers may be entitled to double pay due to the Fair Labor Standards Act.


Government employees are paid, but contract workers like janitors are not

They aren't getting paid. They will get paid when the shutdown is over, but they aren't getting paid right now. An important distinction.

EDIT: I'm referring to the employees here, not contractors


For direct employees - currently, from what I've recently heard - the legislation in place provides for back pay for them. For contract workers for agencies, it's unclear that any of them will receive back pay. Per the other comment here, I might suspect that there were some contractors who may still have been 'required' for some reason to work, but may not get back pay in the end. It's speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me if more than a few people got caught in this situation.

> For direct employees - currently, from what I've recently heard - the legislation in place provides for back pay for them.

Almost in place; the bill in question still needs to be signed by the President. All indications are that he will.

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/s24

In general, there is nothing that guarantees back pay after a shutdown, though it has happened in every shutdown so far.


There is nothing that guarentees pay for fourloghed workers. Those that are required to work have the fair labor standards act, which requires them to get paid during the shutdown. Since the government is violating the FLSA (in order to comply with the anti-deficiancy act), such workers are eligable for not only backpay, but also damages. In one case stemming from the 2013 shutdown damages were calculated at minimum wage for the first 40 hours a week, then the standard overtime rate for anyone working beyond that. This is addition to the backpay of what their pay should have been (so overtime effectivly payed double during this)

https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2017-02-16/judge-orders...


But furloughed contractors are out of that pay permanently. You can't bill for hours you never worked.

Yes, I added an edit to clarify I was referring to employees only in my post.

Yet the federal employees will be paid for hours not worked...

I work as a contractor and most of us are not effected. The money to pay for the vast majority of contracts is allocated at the time of the contract award. So in my case I think we would be funded for another 2 years. For most of the furloughed civilian employees it's an enforced paid (eventually) holiday.

Yes it's horrible and childlish. Politicians use hundreds of thousands of citizens as bargaining chips instead of just figuring out how to work together. If it didn't happen so often, I would imagine there would be rioting. Unfortunately the status quo is to shut down the government whenever you don't get the exact budget you want.

Please don’t make the claim that “both sides” are responsible for or prolonging this shutdown. The House passed a series of bills that are essentially the same as the ones given unanimous consent in the Senate last month in order to provide for government funding.

Those bills passed by the House include substantial funding for border security. All sides are in agreement about the necessity of border security. A single side and a small group of men on that side are holding the lives of 800k federal workers and the lives, health and prosperity of the public at ransom. They’re doing this in order to get a cheap political “win” for a border wall. A wall that will be ineffective and will never be built even if they’re handed the money to build it, due to the enormous ecological, logistical and legal barriers to do so.


No worries, it will be the Dems that "end" the shutdown when they fund the peaches.

I have known several US government workers who describe these shutdowns as a "free vacation". It's also a partial shutdown where many "essential" agencies are still operating (most of Department of Homeland Security), others are funded separately (Department of Veteran's Affairs), and some have already recieved new funding (US Coast Guard). Also worth noting is many government contractors are on fully funded contracts, meaning many are operating in the same fashion as they would during the week of Christmas (i.e., keep the lights on while most Federal employees are out). Basically this is a tolerable situation for what I would characterize as half of US government workers so far, regardless of where they fall on the border wall issue, and especially considering legislation has been passed this week to give government workers back-pay (e.g. the "free vacation" sentiment).

Now that a whole pay period has passed, the situation will become more tense & I expect a change to occur soon.

I hope Democrats make a deal with Trump, in which case Democrats win something (like real DACA legislation), Trump wins funding authorized for more border walls (less than what Democrats authorized several years ago for similar ones), and the government opens back up. The alternative is Democrats win nothing, Trump wins athority over many more billions of dollars via the national emergency route, and the governemnt opens back up - DACA later becomes an unsolved issue when the Supreme Court (likley) strikes it down.


Because most of the government is a waste of money and exists merely to perpetuate itself. The fact that it just shuts down sometimes is a great indicator of just that. It’s an entity that is accountable to nobody because no matter how well or poorly it performs it just collects revenue anyway. You can’t #deletegovt. The sooner people move away from viewing it as a good employer, the better. There’s no smooth or elegant way to make this happen, unfortunately.

Yeah I work as a contractor in the DC metro area and it seems mostly business as usual for the large majority. Folks aren't getting paid, but they'll likely get back pay once it's resolved. Traffic on the highways and metro seemed pretty normal to me. It's 99% political posturing to see who blinks first.

It's definitely not healthy though.


Government has no requirement to be efficient, because it has no local competition. Can you imagine if the board members in a business were in a disagreement and they decided "oh, lets just shut this down until we can come to an agreement?" Their customers would be pretty disappointed, and they'd look for an alternative supplier of goods or services. People would jump at the chance to fill such a gap in the market if there's an opportunity to make money. When they decide to reopen, they'd find that they don't have a business any longer. (Or it will be much smaller if they can salvage some loyal customers)

A business also wants to be as resourceful as possible with the money it has. It won't hire people for "bullshit jobs" (as Graeber calls them), when it could either not have the role or could replace it with a robot. Governments on the other hand, will hire people just to spend the money it has, or to justify increasing the amount it needs to collect.

As you rightly note, people aren't outraged because they see that despite the government being shut down, that the country is still running OK for most part. Then clearly not all of those federal employee roles are necessary. Perhaps if they were cut back to the bare minimum, taxpayers could be saving a lot of money? People are more outraged at the idea that they're paying for government employees to have bullshit jobs, and thinking we should have shutdowns more often.


I should have said “much of government.”

Instead of downvoting the parent, make an actual argument instead. You'll find it difficult. If the current shutdown proves anything, it's that many functions of the federal government are un-essential to daily life. Those un-essential parts should be eliminated.

For most people this argument doesn't follow because they don't see elimination of government as a terminal goal. We believe the government does a lot of useful but un-essential functions, like operate federal parks.

The other thing is the vast majority of the government's budget is Medicare, DoD, and social security which are all still operating to my knowledge.


The two arguments do not necessarily need to be mutually exclusive. You can have governance without monopoly. This would be the ideal scenario.

Governments operate federal parks, but there are also private parks which are just as well kept, sometimes even better - and they do it at much lower costs. See for example, this small public bathroom which cost $2M to build: https://twitter.com/JohnStossel/status/1077921975123804162

Such enormous waste of resources is so common in many areas of government, and if they operated like any regular business they would be bankrupt overnight. Of course it did not take $2M to build that little shack - there is a huge amount of corruption and everyone involved is taking their slice of the taxpayer's money.


I think it really did take 2 million dollars. The video explains why. We have decided to make a lot of trade offs when doing government infrastructure work that makes it really expensive. But this isn't government in general, it's American government specifically that is really inefficient at building things.

In Texas I've been to over ten government run parks (like ones you'd go camping in), and I've never even heard of a private one.


If given the option for a $2M toilet where "the locals are engaged", and takes 4 years to build, or a $300k toilet which is built in 6 months, which do you think most people would opt for?

The real problem is government is too damn big that it becomes impossible to separate out such concerns from every other aspect of government, and each time government expands, it adds more inefficiencies.

A park should be a self-contained enterprise so that it doesn't need outside government spending. If you take for example, Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, you need to pay 100 yen to enter the park. The park gets millions of visitors a year, and the money it takes can easily pay for the upkeep of the park. It could be completely private, but in this particular case it is inherited from the imperial estate and is run by the government. The fee has the additional advantage that it keeps out vandals and thugs - only people who want to enjoy the park will pay for it.

Highways in Japan are mostly toll roads too. They're operated as companies with the intent on making profit. Some are privately owned, although most are government owned. The "who will build the roads?" complaint is one of the most common attempts to retort the argument for small government.


> If given the option for a $2M toilet where "the locals are engaged", and takes 4 years to build, or a $300k toilet which is built in 6 months, which do you think most people would opt for?

You and I both know this is not the cause of a 86% of expenditures.

> The real problem is government is too damn big that it becomes impossible to separate out such concerns from every other aspect of government, and each time government expands, it adds more inefficiencies.

Do you mean too damn big by % of gdp? If so we could double the size of social security and not change the costs of infrastructure.

Do you mean too damn big by employment? If so during census years infrastructure costs don't change much.

If you mean by number of regulations? I think reducing regulations could definitely decrease the cost of infrastructure, but this isn't what most people mean when they talk about the size of government. Texas is a very conservative state with little welfare, not very many services provided by the government, but we have an enormous amount of regulations. An incredible amount of red tape and laws.


> You and I both know this is not the cause of a 86% of expenditures.

This is missing my point. The point is that if it were a private development, then they would be sacked and replaced. This isn't some isolated case and many areas of government are similarly ineffective. The problem is that you can't just replace the one area - the government isn't modular enough to fix its individual parts - it's a monolith.

When I say the government is too big - it's trying to do too many things, and does most of them badly. Markets are better at selecting for efficiency than a single centralized entity. Each 'ministry' or whatnot should be a distinct entity, and should operate like a for-profit business. If one ministry is performing poorly, it could be replaced with a different company in a free market. The threat that they could lose such a contract would force them to perform. No performance, no job - like the rest of us.

To be clear, I'm not for "no government," but for very limited government and little regulation. Governments should not be interfering in markets for instance. Things like environmental regulations are obviously more complex issues which require people to come together for solutions rather than competing.

Another example of a more free market is the education system in Sweden. Instead of funding people to go to the nearest public school to them, they give vouchers for education which are redeemable at any school, private or public, and children can choose. There are no restrictions on location. Because private schooling is almost always better than public schooling, this system has caused the public schools to improve out of necessity - they're competing for children to get the funding - in turn the private schools need to innovate to retain their edge. The result is an overall improvement of the entire education of the country, and reduced government spending.


> When I say the government is too big - it's trying to do too many things, and does most of them badly. Markets are better at selecting for efficiency than a single centralized entity. Each 'ministry' or whatnot should be a distinct entity, and should operate like a for-profit business. If one ministry is performing poorly, it could be replaced with a different company in a free market. The threat that they could lose such a contract would force them to perform. No performance, no job - like the rest of us.

This is just passing the buck. Right now the government bid out the creation of a bathroom and it was done expensively. But you are arguing that if the government bid out the entire parks system it would be done really well? I don't follow the logic. In my experience the more complex the RFP the more the sophisticated parties(the bidders) are going to fuck the unsophisticated party(the government). It's easy to specify what a bathroom should be and take the lowest bid. It's way harder to do that with the park's department.

And not everyone thinks the Swedish model is a success. Lots of people blamed them for causing Sweden to have some of the fastest dropping test scores in the world. And I'm not arguing privatization is always a failure. I'm just arguing that it's not always a success, and that it's success and failure is dependent upon how it's done. I'm not sure why you are so privatization is always a success every time when clearly the historical record says it's a mix of successes and failures.

You argue the government should be smaller. 5/6ths of the government is insurance(medicare/medicaid/social security)+military and then 1/6th is everything else. That includes education, protecting the environment, funding research, parks etc..

I would love the government to be smaller, I don't think we need to spend so much on the military but I do like social security, medicare, and medicaid. I don't want to be in the position where I have to decide between mortgaging my house or letting an elderly relative die of cancer. And it's really nice we don't have to make those decisions.


Even the 'essential parts' would be better if the government had competition. If one provider of the essential services shut down, they'd go out of business and another would take their place. People would pay the provider offering the best service for the best price - and the prices would generally be lower because competition drives out inefficiencies.

So we all end up paying many multiples for incomplete, expensive private services to replace the National Weather Service and the like?

Eastern Oregon has gone the route at one point for fire fighting, and recently went and closed libraries, leaving it to local towns to rebuild said service. Private offerings for services that are a public good tend to either be expensive and poor quality (unreliable, limited service) for these things that were formerly community funded, leaving me with little faith that privitization would do anything besides add cost.


If there are multiple services which provide national weather, the ones which offer the best service at the best price will succeed - if they can stay in business. The point is that they must be profitable, or at the very least break even. If people knew the precise cost of the weather service, they could make their own choice about whether or not it is worth funding.

Government is like a conglomerate and each area of interest is like a subsidiary. The problem is, every single one of their subsidiaries is constantly in the red, year on year. They're completely bankrupt! The only way they survive is by lending more money and collecting more taxes, instead of operating like for-profit businesses which create wealth, rather than take it away.

You can still have community funded enterprises, but they need to be affordable, in the sense that there is not an infinite pot of money they can keep pulling from if they overspend. A fire-service, for example, could charge residents of an area a small monthly fee for operating in that area - and those not willing to pay the fee would simply be deprioritized in the event of any fire on their property. Business owners could pay a premium to have a higher priority. Ideally the fire service will operate in profit, and such profits can be used to improve the service or even partially reimburse the creditors if they've 'overpaid' for the service.

This kind of system obviously can't operate together with the public service if taxes are forcibly collected for the latter. People aren't going to pay for something they've already paid for. To put these systems in place, the existing public services need to be privatized (joint-stock where the users of the service can be part owners), and their tax needs to be reduced by at least the amount they were previously paying which contributed to the former loss-making enterprise.

The overall point is that this system can be self-correcting on a per-service basis. You don't need to wait 4 years to pick between two companies to perform all the services if they're doing badly. If a service is doing badly, and there is a demand for something better, somebody will fill that gap. The mere presence of a big monolithic government is a hinderance to innovation in any service that it provides. The only way the services get improved are from the inside - there is no outside pressure to innovate - much less so if it means that the people inside might be risking their own jobs by making the service more efficient.


Say you have a government that does only two things, of equal cost.

Feed hungry children, and make Statues of past leaders for city squares.

Now imagine the budget of the government was cut in half by Congress. Which of these two things do you think they would stop doing?

The answer is very likely to stop feeding hungry children. Tax payers will feel that pain and become irate at the budget cuts and demand the budget be reinstated.

If they stopped producing statues, taxpayers would probably not notice and wonder why the budget was so high to begin with.

So it goes with the American federal government. The departments shut down things that will cause the most pain, fear, anger to the public until the public demands budgetary reinstatement.

Credits to Thomas Sowell for the analogy.

If you want a good laugh and also see what the fed wastes money on, go look at Rand Paul’s Festivus thread on Twitter.


> see what the fed wastes money on

Yes, there's tremendous waste in the public sector.

But I've worked for large private enterprises most of my career, and there is astronomical waste there too.

I'd bet a year's salary that the waste in large private organizations is far greater than in large government organizations.


Public waste bothers me more, as I can’t opt out of it. Private waste? I can just choose not invest in that company (or short them if they’re public).

Your comment should not have been downvoted.

They should have used Lets Encrypt. TLS certificate renewal should be completely automated. No excuse.

It’s been interesting reading the public info posted for furloughed employees. For example, I didn’t know that Equifax has a workforce management division and that they manage parts of NASA’s workforce.

My bet what will trigger the next recession proper was on Brexit, but 45 is beating the Brits to it. Not shabby for a temper tantrum.

This week I read up on Reagan's firing of 11000 flight controllers because the union that formerly supported him demanded better working conditions. It took a decade for air traffic control to regain the old levels.


Trump is asking for less than 1/1000 of our annual budget for border security. We spend 10x that on foreign aid annually. This entire thing is political BS over what amounts to a rounding error while congress almost unanimously approved $38 billion in money for Israel

It’s not about the money at this point, but about not setting a precedent that the president can get anything he wants by threatening to veto any budget bill that doesn’t include it.

Maybe we can stop being obtuse? The senate can end this by passing a budget and override the president's veto. They're choosing not to.

> They're choosing not to.

For sound political reasons. You may not like those reasons, but they aren't being "obtuse" in the sense they do not understand what they are doing because they lack the wits to comprehend. Minimizing your opponent with those kinds of terms risks you underestimating them.

The "base" that voted in most of the Senate voted in Trump. At the federal level, they pretty much count as a single voting bloc, and that's very powerful in the electoral landscape. And for that base, the wall is very nearly a single-issue vote factor (among a few other issues that base holds similarly dear). You may not like it for various practical reasons, but they currently vote slightly more consistently than Democrats in slightly more precincts where it counts. This might tilt soon to Democrats for demographic reasons, but for the purposes of analyzing this record-breaking shutdown, we must take this base's effect seriously.

Both the Republican senators and Trump need to at a minimum show that base that they were overridden by the Democrats on the wall issue, or they will definitively lose in 2020. Unfortunately, the Democrats do not hold a super-majority to force both houses to pass a bill, retrieve a veto from Trump, then override the veto. So the Democrats are stuck in a deadlock legislatively.

Where the Republicans are vulnerable is public sentiment. If the Democrats stir up public sentiment against Senate Republicans by somehow showing all Democrat politicians are throwing in their financial lot with affected Federal workers and simultaneously casting the GOP Senate Republicans as "Richie Rich" Marie Antoinette's, then that can weaken Senate Republican resolve to block Democrat-sponsored funding bills enough to punt the ball into the executive branch with some ass-covering statements to their base that they were somehow legislatively outmaneuvered by the dasterdly Democrats.

The problem with this kind of approach is realistically, even many Democrat senators are relatively wealthy [1], and quite a few Republican senators are not Scrooge McDuck diving into gold coin piles. It's political theatrics through caricatures, and Trump has a proven, astonishing ability to out-theatrics his opponents and make it stick (that's the part that continues to surprise me), and that's a wildcard.

But if the Democrats somehow neutralize the Federal workers' pain, and convincingly show they can outlast the Republicans (probably by showing they'll take it all the way to 2020 if necessary), then they defang the GOP's obstructive strategy. It would take a hell of a big war chest, however. Which is why I don't see it ever happening.

Would love to hear others' ideas on how Democrats can force Trump's hand on this shutdown issue, as this is certainly an interesting political problem that will be studied in the future by students of politics.

[1] https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/apr...


I don't think what you're saying is at odds with what I'm saying. In both our versions, this is a deliberate act by Congressional Republicans, and doesn't jive with the current narrative, that the President is somehow in charge of making this pass.

But again, this is something where the Republicans have lied to their base, stoked a fake immigration crisis using nativism, and is now forced to lie in a bed they made.

So this is what they get for stoking populist, nativist fear.


> Would love to hear others' ideas on how Democrats can force Trump's hand on this shutdown issue, as this is certainly an interesting political problem that will be studied in the future by students of politics.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but I think the Democrats have backed themselves into a no-win situation. If they give in on the wall, it's an outright Republican victory. If they don't give in on the wall and the shutdown continues, it's a victory for the "small government" part of the Republican base, who will point to the shutdown as proof that the federal government can be safely reduced in size.

And I agree with you that it's unlikely the Democrats will be able to appeal to the economic situation of the affected workers to override a veto. The Democratic leadership has been terrible at forging a consistent message other than "we don't like Trump". They've let themselves be branded as the "social issues party" and let the Republicans brand themselves as the "economy party"; which means they're at a severe disadvantage when it comes to economic issues.

Sure, there may be a racist component to the immigration debate, but most peoples' concerns are primarily economic: "they're" going to take "our" jobs[1]. I also can't think of anything the Democrats could give up as a bargaining chip. Concessions on the ACA would alienate their own base. They'd look disingenuous agreeing to additional tax cuts after making such a big deal of the previous cuts. I'm not sure with what else they could negotiate.

[1] Here the racism is more tribalism than outright "I'm superior because of my race"


Good points, you also reminded me of another claim I've seen about how as soon as the Federal government "really starts to shut down", mayhem will ensue, like food safety issues will arise and cause the GOP to abruptly about-face. It is more nuanced than that, and the GOP can release highly-targeted funding bills that paint the DNC into a corner.

If air traffic controllers start to quit for example, and air travel starts to shut down, then as a stopgap if it isn't a wide enough impact, Trump can order the armed forces to help direct air traffic. If it is a big enough impact, then the GOP can allow for a targeted bill just for the air traffic controllers. The DNC then finds itself in an unenviable position. Block the targeted funding bill just for the ATC's, and the mayhem squarely lands on them. Allow it to pass, and they start losing political points in this dominance game. It's not good optics for the DNC either way.

For some issues like food safety, we're not going to run into PRC-level, pre-FDA era food supply chain adulteration overnight, many fiscal quarters and years is more likely. It took decades in the PRC before the adulteration got to the levels we see today, and they still don't experience political unrest from it. The longer this shutdown runs, the more ammunition the DNC is handing GOP "small government" advocates' rhetoric (as over-caricatured as that rhetoric will be, and as wrong in its over-simplification it is, it will play well to the GOP base). The GOP wet dream is the shutdown drags on indefinitely, and they get to "starve the beast" by reverse-budgeting: find out what part of civilizational collapse becomes unacceptable due to lack of operations, fund only those parts, and devil take the hindmost. That's like a nightmare scenario for the DNC.

It can get worse, too. ATC example above: Trump orders a vestigial FAA to tell everyone using airspace they now can only access airspace if their special usage-tax is fully paid up, and budget all critical FAA functions via pure utility revenue collections. Or designates a private company to administer the airspace management, who collects revenue, and is granted by executive power the ability to regulate access to airspace, and disband the FAA. The salivating within GOP think tanks is almost audible.

The DNC appears to my casual observation to be playing right into the GOP's hands. I'm far, far from some kind of politics wonk/hacker, though. So I'd sure like to be shown a way out of the DNC's dilemma by political hackers who follow this stuff much more than I do.

I think if the DNC can put together a two-plus year budget plan in exchange for caving on the wall, then they take this corner they've been painted into out of the GOP's hands. By no means should the DNC accept temporary budget bills for just a month or so: that just loads more bullets into the chamber to shoot the DNC with more shutdowns.

By refusing to compromise ($5.7B is about a quarter of the estimated $25B entire wall project), the DNC backed the GOP into a corner with their base, where the GOP politicians got nothing to lose by pushing back. By raising the stakes into "for all the marbles", the DNC told these GOP politicians they have nothing to lose by demanding the entire $25B instead. If the DNC is going to play that kind of hardball, I sure would love to be a fly on the wall to hear what their strategy is.


I have a theory that many Republicans in congress don't really care about the wall, because the Senate unanimously passed a spending bill the day before the shutdown began, and that spending bill did not include wall funding. If that's the case, then those Republicans would be reluctant to compromise, because any compromise involve them making a concession in exchange for the wall, which they don't really care about. Or maybe it is that they didn't care about it, but now they do? After all, the political climate is different now than before the shutdown, and politicians do care about the political climate.

This is the part that people so easily forget. The power is truley in Congress' hands. That said, appropriations bills must originate in the House and the new speaker and flock of freshman Representatives haven't passed anything yet.

The House has already passed a couple bills funding the government, in whole or in part[1]. They haven't been taken up in the Senate.

One of the bills passed this week: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/21?s...

[1]: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/04/house-passes-bill-to-end-gov...


> That said, appropriations bills must originate in the House and the new speaker and flock of freshman Representatives haven't passed anything yet.

This is flatly untrue. The House passed an appropriations bill [0] on the first day they were in session (Jan 3), and it has been waiting for a vote in the Senate since then.

0: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr21


Why would the House waste time passing bills that aren’t going to have a veto proof majority? Congress generally waits until they’re close to having the votes before going through the process.

The Senate passed the House bill before the winter recess. Trump threw his tantrum, though...

As a European I find the US system to bind packages of laws slightly idiotic. The current fight is about a few sticks of steel yet unrelated federal agencies are cut off their funding. This is sabotage!

They don't have to do it this way. They call the packages Omnibus bills and its supposed to be some sort of way to make the process more efficient and strike deals. You get your pet project and I get mine.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnibus_bill


Wait until you hear about the debt limit [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIbkoop4AYE


We have more than a 5 trillion dollar budget?

> Trump is asking for less than 1/1000 of our annual budget for border security.

No, he's asking for it for a wall, not for border security; wall's are't security, they're security theater. Actual security requires people, not walls. Most illegals fly in on Visa's and just over stay, they don't sneak in through the desert. Walls are easily by ladders, ropes, and shovels, only an idiot like Trump would want to spend billions on a wall.


What is this meme that walls are ineffective? The only places that are/were effective without walls shot people on sight (Dominican Republic for example).

Was there something about ropes, ladders, and shovels that wasn't clear? Wall's can't stop someone determined to get over/under it; security doesn't come from a wall, it comes from boots on the ground. It's not a meme, it's a fact. Beyond that, putting up a wall presumes incorrectly that that's how illegals get into the country, it's not. One only has to get a tourist visa and then not leave to get into the country, no wall stops that; walls are for show and are a waste of money. Then entire border of the country is open, putting a wall on a small part of the southern border is simply idiotic.

I am afraid this is the beggining of the collapse of Us standard of living. Developer with 20 years of experience from greece and PhD. Working for goverment for 6 dollars per hour.

Nasa.gov[1] and justice.gov[2] resolving and have valid TLS certificates for me.

> In the end, nothing good will come out of this shutdown.

Some people believe increasing border security and funding to reduce crime, reduce sex trafficking, and better protect border agents and law enforcement as good.

  [1] https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=nasa.gov&latest
  [2] http://ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=justice.gov&latest

There's been little disagreement about the broader idea of "increasing border security". Poll I saw the other day showed (IIRC) something like 80%+ of polled people saw a need for 'increased border security'. The phrase is incredibly broad. What is in dispute is what to spend money on, but I suspect you already know that.

It seems like the two things that should be taken under consideration when taking the government hostage is, "is it worth it", and "can we win". I personally don't think border security is that important but I understand lots of people feel differently.

But I really don't think the Republicans can win this argument. When they controlled both houses and the presidency they couldn't pass the wall funding. So I'm not sure why they think they can do it after losing the houses. Especially since this politically hurts them among independents far more than it hurts the Democrats.


Border security is part of all the previously passed funding resolutions.



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