The main problem with the government shutdown isn’t that the Republican president and Democrats in Congress can’t agree on funding for a border wall. I'd give that finding a big fat "What else is new?" In the last decade of winner-take-all political posturing, both sides have pretty well demonstrated a distaste for anything that might be construed as cooperation or bipartisanship.
The American public has gotten used to that, distasteful as it is.
But there are disturbing aspects I would argue we should not get used to — or put up with. The first one is vandalism by those who see fewer workers on the scene to enforce rules as an invitation to wield a wrecking ball to sate their selfish whims. And the second is the unfairness of piling the bulk of the financial burden on the backs of a significant minority of America's workforce, namely those who are employed by the federal government.
I cannot explain the urge to vandalize, akin to looting that always occurs when a certain type of person sees opportunity and no one to stand in the way. The damage that is wrought can be seen in places like Joshua Tree National Park in California. News reports show felled Joshua trees, mowed down by people who take the diminished ranks of park staff as an invitation to carve new roads where experts deem none should be.
But hey, who cares that people who protect nature for a living think cutting a swatch through a sensitive environment could harm it? It's a vandal's dream, the opportunity to off-road on forbidden ground simply because you can. Who cares if you wreck it for everyone else.
I'd love to see harsh penalties for those who behave so egregiously.
The other injustice is what's happening to those who aren't getting paid in a timely manner because they happen to be the bargaining chip officials have chosen to get the other side to move.
Nobody is budging. And the ripples are getting deeper and wider as some 800,000 federal employees go without a paycheck, in turn impacting others who rely on those workers to consume goods, buy services, pay rent, need daycare, etc.
I sympathize with their plight. Burdening a sector that has no more responsibility for what's happening than any other is a poor way to work through a national issue.
Not all my friends care that some federal employees are not being allowed to work and earn, or that others, deemed "essential," are being required to work but aren't paid in timely fashion.
"I have worked for government," a friend said recently, noting she survived similar situations and planned for them. It's just one of the costs of choosing to work for the government, she added.
Why is it? I can think of absolutely no good reason why people employed in government work — supposedly good, reliable, steady work (and isn't that the employment dream?) — should have their paychecks delayed and their lives disrupted when Republicans and Democrats can't resolve differences, even as finances hum along for everyone else.8 comments on this story
I think it's safe to assume my friend makes more than the $14 an hour I recently read that many of the TSA screeners at airports make. Hard to build a great safety net on $29,000 a year. I also suspect she's either had time to sock something away or her husband's salary meets their basic needs.
Regardless, why should federal employees take on this involuntary burden more than the rest of us?
Our leaders need to find a different bargaining chip. Maybe they need an involuntary furlough. Granted, the effect wouldn't be the same, as our elected leaders are far better off financially than average-Joe employees. But at least the burden would fall on those who have the power to resolve it.