A Government Meltdown (OPINION)

(Cartoon by Shane Braden, Patterson Press)

By Destiny Diggs

The United States Federal Government entered a broad government shut-down on October 1, 2013 after Congress failed to agree on a spending bill that would keep the Government running. 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal workers are going without pay. Workers that are considered essential will continue to receive their paychecks, such as federal law enforcement agents, safety personnel, the military and even members of Congress.

Many Americans are wondering why the same Congressmen and Congresswomen who are responsible for the government shut-down are still receiving pay-checks, while so many ordinary workers are being forced to survive without any income. To make matters worse, low-income women and children are not guaranteed to receive government assistance because the federal funds that go into the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children ( WIC ) that provides food vouchers and health care services are not being disbursed due to the shut-down and the states may not have enough money to provide such things.

This temporary shut-down is not only affecting federal workers. It also affects countless other features of the United States, including national parks and the Coast Guard. The government has shut down three satellites that the Coast Guard needs to receive information on their computers to see what is going on in the ocean. Meanwhile, the closure of our country’s national parks has forced Americans to cancel family vacations. Searches were sent out for missing hikers and committees are losing millions of dollars in tourism money every day.  America is even more unprepared for natural disasters than usual. Of particular concern is Tropical Storm Karen, which is getting bigger in the Gulf of Mexico. With the government out of commission, who will keep our communities safe from this potentially deadly storm?

If the government shut-down is causing so many serious problems, why is it happening? Some people blame both the Republicans and the Democrats for refusing to come to an agreement. However, I believe it is mostly the Republicans’ fault. Republicans in Congress created this situation by refusing to vote for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running unless that CR removed all funding for the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare–a law that already passed Congress years ago), President Obama’s healthcare plan that was set to be implemented more fully on October 1st, the same day that the government shut-down began. This was a conscious strategy by anti-Obamacare Republicans such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Their goal was to pressure Democrats into voting for a spending bill that defunds Obamacare so they could keep the government open. When Democrats refused to go along with this, Congress entered a deadlock with both parties refusing to budge, even if it meant that the rest of the country would suffer. The people that will suffer the most are the people that rely on the government aid such as welfare and food stamps.

One of the most essential services in the United States, Amber Alert, was shut down due to lack of funding. Amber Alert is is an emergency program that helps track down missing children. Children are abducted and go missing every single day and many of them are not being found. Because the government could not make a decision about what they want to do, Amber Alert stopped functioning for a week. If a child went missing, the Amber Alert could not send out alerts to notify parents and citizens. However, after a week of being shut down the Amber Alert has finally been restored and continues to help find missing and exploited children.

Many people, perhaps even President Obama, believed the Republicans were bluffing about shutting the government down. Some even believe that both the Democrats and the Republicans are acting very childish.  The people that are not affected by the government shut-down do not seem to be phased by it.  President ” Obama” says he will negotiate with the Republican on financial issues if they open the government up again and raise the debt limit with no strings attached.

Many citizens have shared their opinions about the shut-down. Baltimore resident Gene Jackson stated,” I feel that Congressional leaders no longer represent the people who voted for them. This is why they’re so easily manipulated and play with peoples livelihoods”. A Florida resident who wishes to remain anonymous said the following:”Well, going into the second week of the government shut-down, I think if they stopped paying Congress that they could come to an agreement. It’s unfair that the workers are having to pay for the fact that our leaders are acting like five-year-old children.” A local Baltimore parent stated,” The people that need the money the most are the ones who don’t have it–middle class people. How do I feel about the shut-down? It’s selfish. It’s for greed. It’s for the wrong reasons and people who don’t have nothing in the bank won’t ever have nothing in the bank. The refrigerators are bare, the gas tank is empty and your only hope is to feed your children what you can and pray to get to work and make a little bit more.”  Out of state resident Tangie Baxter said she can’t stand the government. She stated,” The government is filled with corrupt people and for them to shut down the government just shows how much they care about its people.  They shut down the government knowing that Congress will still get paid. What they need is to help the middle class and stop helping the rich get richer and stop making the poor get poorer and help people progress in this country. America is a big paradox. People want to come here from other countries but they don’t realize how biased America is to its own people. The President is trying his best to make it fair for all people and the Republicans make damn sure that it’s impossible to do so. And it’s just sad what kind of country we live in and its even sadder that countries that are doing far worse try to be like ours”.  Local Virginia resident John Ross said he thinks the shut is terrible. He went on to say,” It’s ridiculous how the Republicans are holding the American people hostage”.

The government has so many things wrong with its system and it will not surprise anyone that once the shut-down is over, Congress will come up with a way to make the tax payers suffer from money America has lost because of the shut-down. The Republican candidate for the next Presidential election will surely receive many questions and criticism about the shut-down two years from now and we will see what excuse they come up with to explain this mess and how much chaos they have caused.

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