In a juvenile struggle between the political parties to have their way it seems the American people will once again pay the price. The government shutdown is another reminder that members of Congress have a stronger relationship with their political party than the American people. Members of both the left and right are showing they care only about the effect their stance will have on their party rather than the constituents they are sworn to represent. Their latest debacle, the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, exemplifies this fact with neither party willing to compromise on a budget out of fear of showing weakness. But then again, why should a government shutdown bother the members of Congress? They are still going to “work”. They even met bright and early at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, to discuss the urgent changes that needed to happen for Congress to approve a budget which would end the temporary shutdown. They are also still collecting a paycheck while more than 700,000 federal employees sit at home with no pay and no guarantee of back pay when they are finally able to return to work.
While the shutdown may not affect the members of Congress who failed to reach an agreement because they couldn’t have their way, so the question remains, who does the shutdown affect? Unfortunately, it immediately affects the 700,000 federal employees whose jobs were deemed non-essential. The partial shut down means 400,000 employees from the Department of Defense, 40,200 Department of Commerce employees, 12,700 Department of Energy employees, 18,500 Department of Transportation employees and employees at seven other institutions were without work or pay beginning last Tuesday morning. The shutdown, luckily, did not affect the 1.4 million active-duty uniformed military personnel, air traffic controllers, jobs that deal with national security or nuclear weapons and power and workers at the U.S. Postal Service whose daily activities are self funded through the sale of stamps and other postal fees.
The government has shutdown 18 times over the past 30 years and every time it is the American people who pay the price as members of Congress fight like small children, neither side giving up the toy they so long to play with. So, the truth is the shutdown is about more than just the budget, more than just Obamacare, the shutdown is about power. The shutdown is proof that some people do not have to do their job in this country and the sad part is most of those people will be reelected next year.
The shutdown could not come at a worse time as the U.S. and global economy are finally starting to recover. The last government shutdown in 1995 lasted 21 days and cost the economy over $1 billion. Goldman Sachs estimates the current suspension in government activity could eliminate as much as .9 percent from the U.S. Gross Domestic Product if it were to last for three weeks. Furthermore, if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by October 17, the U.S. Government will run out of cash to pay its bills and may have to default on its loans for the first time in American history.
Hardly a day goes by that I do not run into someone complaining about the lack of leadership and understanding in Washington D.C. Perhaps next November when we head to the polls we can remember this and ask for more out of our elected officials. It is time we remember we are the ones that put them there and they need to be held accountable to the people responsible for electing them once they get in office. It is time they start representing us not just their affiliated party and the big money that backs them.