Jay Leno commented that, “Right now 33 percent of the government is doing absolutely nothing, which is not bad considering that before the shutdown 80 percent wasn’t doing anything.”
And Jimmy Fallon noted, “President Obama had an hour-long meeting with Republicans and Democrats, but they were still unable to end the government shutdown situation. So don't worry — while the shutdown is putting people out of work and costing taxpayers millions of dollars, lawmakers did spend a whole hour trying to fix it.”
Perhaps more on-the-mark is a letter making the rounds on social media, purportedly from a disappointed Braves fan writing to his congressman expressing his disappointment about the Braves losing their division to the Dodgers, “a bunch of California liberals!”
He complains that just because the Braves couldn’t score enough runs, the Dodgers refuse to relinquish the NLDS title, or even discuss it — a situation he calls unsportsmanlike and un-American.
The writer calls on his congressman to outlaw baseball until the Dodgers cave.
“And if that means the country will be deprived of its national pastime — well, the Dodgers will have only themselves to blame.”
It’s a clever analogy to the current state of our federal government, and it’s a healthy part of our national psyche that we can see humor in the outrageous.
Politicians have learned that they should never let a crisis go to waste in trying to score political advantage for their issues, and they’ve become skilled in creating crises around deadlines to score points and try to force compromises.
If hardball political stunts only affected other politicians, we could say it’s just part of the game and move on. But the inconveniences and uncertainties created by the shutdown affect innocent people in any number of ways — people who go to work and get their jobs done and wonder why their congressmen can’t do the same thing.
It’s bad enough that people who planned their vacations around visiting national parks and monuments were dashed by the reality created by political strategists. In our own area, we’ve seen Head Start operations stopped. That created headaches for parents, confusion for kids and uncertainty for employees about whether they will be able to pay their bills.
Critical government services are continuing, but it seems every day we hear new stories about Americans being hurt by the shutdown. Employees at restaurants and hotels near national parks are losing income, and unlike federal employees, they can’t expect to be paid retroactively once the disputes in Washington are settled. Aircraft and parts aren’t being sold because of FAA paperwork that can’t be completed due to furloughs. Analysis and warning information about a salmonella outbreak has likely been delayed because of reduced staffing at the CDC. Government contractors face uncertainties about meeting expenses and payrolls.
The shutdown over the budget is just one step before the next crisis, over raising the debt limit.
It all creates uncertainty and tension in the public, and an atmosphere that works against investment, spending and business expansion. That hurts our economy, hurts the market for stocks and bonds, and hurts our government and our economy internationally.
At a time when our nation is still working its way out of the worst economy since the Great Depression, this kind of reckless governance has the potential to set us back. And that’s no laughing matter.