An inoperative government in a world where being operational and powerful is the key to maintaining authority, influence and dominance is ridiculous.Yet just that occurred on Oct. 1 as the U.S. government entered a shutdown after lawmakers failed to approve legislation to fund it.
Also ridiculous is that much of the American population did not seem to grasp the gravity of or even care about the situation, including many of our peers at Amarillo College. Like so many things, because there was no immediate effect felt locally, many people seemed to disregard the shutdown as unimportant. We live in a time of instant gratification. We want everything quickly, at the moment, right now! Nothing else matters. Because of that attitude, we tend to not realize that something that seems inconsequential at the moment because the effect is not immediate may be setting us up for a series of consequences further down the line.
Lawmakers finally agreed on legislation Wednesday night and President Barack Obama signed a bill to end the shutdown just after midnight, a few hours before the nation would have defaulted on its debt. Even as you read this, national parks are re-opening and furloughed workers are returning to their jobs. Most of the workers and those who worked without compensation during the shutdown will be paid retroactively. So many would say that this isn’t a big deal, that there’s no reason for fuss because they didn’t lose any pay.
But there is.
The economy goes to hell when people stop spending money – which is what people did when the shutdown began. Those workers may be reimbursed after this is all said and done, but think about the 16 days they spent at home, afraid to spend what they may have had in savings because they were unsure just how long Congress members would argue among themselves and how long those savings would have to last.
People who aren’t being paid do not go out to eat. They stay home. So the waiter at Texas Roadhouse takes a hit in the tips. People who aren’t going to work don’t buy new clothes, so the salesperson at Dillard’s gets to wonder how they’ll pay their bills without a commission check this month. People who won’t have a paycheck anytime soon do not go to the movies or buy new video games, so the usher at United Artists and the clerk at Hastings get to stay home an extra day because there aren’t enough hours to go around.
The restaurant and food production, entertainment, clothing manufacturers and retailers and the oil and gas industries all rely on people having money to spend. When the money isn’t being spent, the effects eventually trickle down to every employee in the businesses.
Those industries aren’t the only ones affected. The travel and recreation businesses both are taking some serious hits, especially in the areas associated with travel to national parks and monuments. Say goodbye to all the dollars tourists spend shopping, dining and staying near Yosemite.
About 800,000 government workers went without pay for the past 16 days. Now that the government shutdown is over, they will return to work and hopefully will be reimbursed. No worries. Let’s get back to normal, let’s all forget it happened and get back to our regularly scheduled apathy.
We have to care – about ourselves and those around us and the people calling the shots. We need to become informed – about the short AND longterm effects a decision or failure of our lawmakers will have. If we care only when something directly affects us, when our own pockets take a hit, when we’re the waiter or salesperson or cashier or clerk with a dwindling paycheck, it’s already too late.
We lose the chance to have an opinion. We lose the chance to have a voice. We lose the chance to speak up and ask for what we want. We lose control.
Be informed and have a care. It’s the only way you’ll have a fighting chance.