October 9, 2013

KITCHELL: Gov't shutdown hurts the wrong people


---- — One of the most random things the United States Congress has ever done is agree to hold its own people hostage.

Regardless of party affiliation, the shutdown may serve political purposes, but it just doesn’t serve the people of this country in the short run.

Let’s ask those 600 people who worked at Grissom Air Reserve Base last week what they think of Congress and I’m sure many of the answers would make it through editing in this or any other daily newspaper. Is it any wonder that the approval rating for Congress is close to Anthony Weiner’s share of the vote in the New York mayoral primary?

When public officials paid six-figure salaries keep on collecting them while children in need are shut out of Head Start daycare centers, government has failed this country. When a Capitol policeman who is working for free because of the shutdown has to apprehend a woman on a wild spree in the nation’s capital, the government isn’t serving this country. When families have headed to national parks for a family vacation only to find the gates closed, the government isn’t serving this country.

It’s clear that Republicans are attempting to defund Obamacare and reverse what Congress and the Supreme Court have already affirmed and President Obama has signed into law. But that’s not going to happen. If anything, the medical device tax which affects Indiana businesses such as medical device manufacturers in Warsaw could be lowered as a part of a settlement, but Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman said it best when he said Republicans need to come away with something, but he’s not sure what that is.

No one outside the Beltway is either, and Stutzman was chided for saying what the rest of us are thinking. That’s a shame because someone needs to tell the House leadership in particular to grow up. Accept that you’re in the minority for now and go on to negotiate another day. If they want to shut down the government, that’s fine with me as long as the thing that’s shut down first is their office, and the first people who go without a salary is them. Congress isn’t in session the entire year anyway and we can survive without them. They can’t survive without us.

It’s a shame really, not just for the people whose incomes will go down this year because of egotistical, power-grabbers whose ambitions exceed their patriotism. It’s a shame because it makes the United States a laughingstock for the rest of the world to enjoy. What do you think they’re saying about us in Beijing, in Vladimir Putin’s private study, in North Korea, in Tehran, in Afghanistan?

It should matter what people are saying about us in Peoria, but it apparently doesn’t because we’ve become so cynical to accept the shenanigans of a government that sacrifices the well-being of its own people for the sake of their own political careers.

It’s time for Americans to flood the swittchboards and email files of Congress and let them know their houses are not in order and the last people who deserve to suffer for their inability to reach agreement are those who have no say in the matter.

Isn’t it ironic that we’re the country that stood up for Syrians who were victims of their government’s actions against them? Who will stand up for those 600 families affected by the Grissom cuts? Can we expect Iraqi troops to invade D.C. to help us?

No we can’t. But we also can’t let this episode in American history go by without sending a message to those who only want to capitalize on their own political ambitions and pretend no one is affected by what they’ve done.

If you’ve never sent a letter, an email or made a phone call to the House of Representatives before, today would be a good day to start doing it.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at