We’re now in week two of a federal government shutdown.
What might have begun as a surprise day off is continuing with some troubling conversations around kitchen tables in Northern Virginia. How much do we have in savings? How long is it before we have to ask for an extension on our mortgage payment? Do we have enough money for food and gas to last until the do-nothings in Congress take a vote?
While we certainly recommend that every family plan ahead for hard fiscal times, there remain a lot of families that still live paycheck to paycheck. This is particularly true of government employees, who generally make significantly less than what they might in the private sector.
Beyond that, those in the private sector are starting to check their account balances. Between the federal employees, military personnel and government contractors, Virginia is disproportionally impacted by the shutdown. Local shops will be seeing less revenue as the belt-tightening continues. Local companies planning to hire for empty positions may decide to wait until we start debating the debt ceiling – the next potentially fed-shattering discussion.
Those still bemoaning the loss of the country’s AAA credit rating should consider that Standard & Poor’s has already pointed to the inability for Congressional leaders to arrive at a solution as justification of the downgrade. Should the Treasury miss its debt payments, the problem will only get worse. At best, our slowly-improving economic recovery has hit a roadblock that threatens to reverse its recent progress.
There are those – and it is difficult to disagree with them – who question whether allowing an extended government shutdown is a breach of the elected officials’ oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It’s likely to make the 2014 mid-term elections very interesting.
Who’s to blame?
There is certainly enough blame to go around. Extremist Republicans attempting to tie the Affordable Care Act certainly take center stage, although the ongoing reluctance by the president and Democratic leaders certainly doesn’t leave them with clean hands.
But scratch deeper and there’s another level of blame; one that we must look into the mirror to fully accept.
While it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that a government shutdown would have negative impacts, perhaps it’s better understood by those members of Congress with seniority and a deeper understanding of how the government works. Unfortunately, many of these senior representatives have either retired or “been retired” by a new wave of take-no-prisoners ideologues who have ridden a general unease among the public with specific ideas that are out of the mainstream.
Who’s to blame? Perhaps we should consider the people who didn’t vote in the last election – or those who failed to study the candidate’s background and qualifications. Maybe we should consider the voters who simply checked off the candidate who had the right (D) or (R) at the end of their name. It’s troubling to consider how many Americans spent more time weighing their choices for fantasy football than their choice of an elected representative.
The news is currently full of reports from closed parks, missing checks and suspended programs. These are symptoms of a government that does do some things right, something those preventing the government budget should have kept in mind before deciding to go nuclear over the budget impasse.
How do we fix it?
Telling officials to “fix it” without a care as to what that fix might look like is no more responsible than the seemingly casual nature the government was shut down in in the first place. However, an immediate funding bill is required to get the conversation going. Then, it is incumbent on every member of Congress to sign on to a potential solution to the underlying debt crisis so that a public debate on fixing that incoming iceberg can begin.
And as an area impacted so heavily by the shutdown, it’s incumbent on us to pay attention to that solution.
Each member of the House of Representatives is up for election in 2014. They have a year to help us forgive them for the shutdown and institute a plan to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.