What’s changing, and what’s not?
Maybe nothing — for now. Local officials are waiting out the government shutdown that is now upon us to see how it will, or won’t, affect our lives.
The short answer seems to be that locally, effects won’t be felt as long as the shutdown ends within a month’s time. But after that, no one can be sure. Why? Because as Congress sits at a deadlock, taxpayers have been left in the dark.
So what are the potential effects?
We know that half of the more than 14,500 Department of Defense civilian employees who work at Fort Bragg were furloughed at noon on Tuesday. We know the base’s two commissaries will close, and services relating to personnel substance abuse, suicide prevention, infrastructure support and recreation will be stopped or reduced. We know the Board of Veterans Appeals will stop issuing rulings, leading to possible delays of benefits distribution.
Maybe the short answer is that thousands of people will be waiting to see if those who lead the country — the country to which they have already given so much — can work to come to a consensus that will allow them to receive pay, or services for which they have already paid.
We also know this: After 30 days, only 67 of 349 employees of the Federal Housing Administration will remain working. There will possibly be delays in processing new disability applications, supplemental food for women and children could be cut and pension payments could be interrupted.
Maybe the short answer is that those who already lead a challenged existence — the poor and disabled or the poor and pregnant, of which there are so many in this county — could face even greater hurdles.
While our national parks and museums may not be “essential” to daily life, we know that they are a popular travel destination for families and retired workers, and that those travelers spend money — in gas stations, in restaurants, in hotels. We know that not having the money to keep open the very things that celebrate what being an American is all about sends a sad message to the rest of the world.
We know, from news reports, that a shutdown of two weeks could cost this already suffocating economy $55 billion. We know it’s a bill we, the taxpayers, can’t afford. We also know that while the salaries of many have been stopped, Congress is still collecting its checks.
Perhaps the answer doesn’t matter as much as a bipartisan agreement. Only when one is reached will we once again be operating with a tank that may not be full, but contains enough fuel to get us to the next speed bump. Whether or not Obamacare will go into effect, we can’t tell, but we think it’s time that those in charge come to a decision for those who pay their salaries.
We hope everyone can agree that this game of political chicken has to end — no matter who is first to put on the brakes or change direction. If our lawmakers truly care about those who put them in office, it will be sooner rather than later.