Although still a couple of days short of the record set in 1995-96 for the longest shutdown, the ongoing Great Wall of Mexico government shutdown is getting a lot more attention than its predecessors. That’s because of 24/7 news, social media and the fact that the president has said he’s prepared for it to go on for months or even years if necessary.
The rest of us are probably not so enthusiastic at this point in time.
Government shutdowns, when hundreds of thousands of civil servants work without pay even as hundreds of thousands are forced to stay home also sans salaries, are expensive. Employees are always reimbursed — eventually — whether they were forced to work or forced to stay home, at least in the past. But in the meantime some people may lose their homes, or become serfs-for-life to payday loan companies whose tactics are denounced by the Mafia.
Federal workers who switched health plans last year don’t know for sure whether they are enrolled in their old or new plans. Neither do their doctors. Some people who retired just before or during the shutdown don’t know their status.
Washington “The Swamp” D.C., is on a lot of people’s hit lists. That includes politicians from everywhere but here, who regularly denounce it as being out of touch. Meantime they spend the rest of their careers raising money to get re-elected so they can stay here rather than return to God’s country from whence they came. Many even stay here as lobbyists or lawyers once they leave the House or Senate. But while Washington is fair game and an easy target, the shutdown is everywhere.
Close to half the land in California and 70 percent of Nevada is under federal control. So who’s minding the store? People are still going to national parks but the toilets runneth over. What is happening that we don’t know about, but will be billed for when this ongoing shutdown is finally shut down?
Monday’s edition of The Washington Post had two page one stories about the shutdown. One of them noted that while most of the shutdown attention is focused on D.C., the real action is taking place where you live, work, vote and send your kids to school. My two favorite examples of super-federal cities are Ogden, Utah, and Huntsville, Alabama. The Post feature focused on Ogden, a Red State city of 87,000 where tens of thousands of people work for Uncle Sam: It has an IRS service center, a large Interior Department presence and Hill Air Base. If you don’t work for Uncle Sam there, or in similar cities in Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Alabama and New York you depend on the federal salary dollar to get by. Shut Uncle Sam down and you’ve got a ripple-effect that can quickly become a financial tsunami for dozens of communities.
The story pointed out that Maryland and Virginia are obviously among the hardest hit by the shutdown. But things are almost as tough for fed-centric communities in Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Missouri where the government salary tail wags the dog.
By some estimates a single federal job generates up to six support jobs in the private sector. Even if that’s high, by a lot, it is still a lot. And when federal workers don’t get paid they tend to reduce spending. The Post cited an IRS worker with four kids who is being supported at the moment by her partner. Her Plan B, if the shutdown continues, is signing up as a blood donor which would give her a cool $200 to help pay the bills.
The town of Chilmark in Martha’s Vineyard was home to its own form of sign language centuries before the official use of American Sign Language for the deaf. Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, now extinct, was spoken by nearly everyone in Chilmark until the first half of the 20th century, as the town was about 25 percent deaf, higher than the national average.