BUFFALO — There is an unseen casualty to the shutdown of the federal government. It is the disillusionment of those young men and women, who have the potential to become outstanding members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, in the near future.
Some are of college-age and many more are much younger. The spirit of hope and promise for the future, which, 50 years ago, inspired others to join the Peace Corps, the civil rights movement and manned space program, has been extensively tarnished by both sides of the shutdown debacle. I just hope the damage is not permanent.
“The reality is that both sides are leaning heavily on principle, when it comes to defending their current stance on the shutdown. For [Speaker of the House John] Boehner, this is about standing up for the people who don’t like Obamacare and want it gone. For [President Barack] Obama/[Sen. Harry] Reid, it’s about not re-litigating a law that the Supreme Court upheld and, they believe, the 2012 election affirmed,” according to an article by Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan, published by USA Today on Oct. 2
Among the casualties getting the most attention include the Environmental Protection Agency, where more than 15,000 individuals have been furloughed. That leaves approximately 1,000 people on the payroll.
“Most EPA operations [will] halt,” according to CNN.
It is a joke that national monuments are closed because of the shutdown. The Lincoln Memorial offers primitive restrooms and a gift shop, but otherwise is a large open box paying tribute to the wartime leader.
The World War II Memorial has no such facilities and is simply an outdoor space dedicated to those Americans who fell in the worst calamity of the 20th century. The feds would have more impact by covering all the birdbaths in the city.
More than 3,500 employees of the Smithsonian Institute have been furloughed, leaving behind, for example, those individuals who protect the collections and feed the animals. The countless lovers of the Smithsonian, who would gladly serve as volunteers to keep the facilities open, have been told not to bother.
The result is that a great deal of Washington, D.C., the city – not the seat of government – has had the rug pulled out from underneath it. Federal employees are not paying for cab rides or subway cards for their daily commute. They are not stopping on the hill for a coffee to-go. They are not grabbing a sandwich at noontime. Without a paycheck, they aren’t sure how to pay their rent.
Take that number and multiply it by the number of private-sector employees who will eventually suffer from a drop in business at those cab companies, coffee shops and restaurants. Additionally, tourists are feeling discouraged about making the trek to D.C. because so many landmarks have been shuttered. Have the most stubborn of the Republicans made their point? What is their point?
Their desperate attempt to tie elimination of funding for Obamacare to a last-ditch drive to prevent the shutdown of the federal government has turned into political quicksand. The majority of Americans look unfavorably on Boehner and his stubborn approach to negotiation.
Like a quarterback on a mismatched football team, Boehner should have walked up to the line of scrimmage, taken a look at the defense formed by House Democrats and the Obama administration and called time out. He should have walked back into the huddle and called a new play.
Instead, he is penalizing hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the federal government for human services as well as their livelihood. With no resolution in sight, the collateral damage will mount, week by week, and it will become even more difficult to admit the fight was a farce. Obamacare is the law of the land, and no grandstanding, by any collection of lawmakers, is going to change that.
I only hope that the next generation does not lose faith, but rather, sees an opportunity to make a dysfunctional system one of which we can again be proud.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.