BY LEW HASTINGS - At the time of this writing the partial government shutdown entered its 13th day. While this is not the longest of the 18 times the government shut down since 1976, we are getting close.
This past Saturday it looked as though the GOP had hammered out a compromise that would have restored the government which included funding critical programs and services so they would be able to open their doors and start the wheels of progress moving again. That compromise was rejected by the President and negotiations broke down yet again to get a deal on the table before the October 17th debt ceiling is reached once again potentially putting our Country at risk of defaulting on our debts. Some economists are predicting grave consequences if a deal cannot be reached and the debt ceiling raised before the deadline.
This government shutdown is just the latest example of the division in Washington and how playing beltway politics has a real and tangible effect that trickles down to small business and the American people. It seems we are the ones that end up being the casualties of the "friendly fire" coming from the very people we have elected to govern our Country.
The delicate economic recovery our Nation has been experiencing over the last several months will not hold if consumers lose faith in the ability of our elected leaders to be able to work together on ideas that help build sound economic stability now and in the future.
During this partial government shutdown key federally funded programs have been suspended that are critical to our national economic health. Over 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed and most of those being retained in certain programs are considered immediately necessary for the protection of life or property. I contend that the strain on small business created by this "shutdown" IS compromising the protection of life and property of the American people.
The Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau an arm of the Department of Treasury has furloughed most of it's workforce stopping the processing of requests for new licenses, label approval and manufacture of non-beverage products. The Department of Commerce has furloughed more than 40,000 of it's 46,000 strong workforce who handle most research activities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and NOAA suspending them indefinitely. The Small Business Association is open only to operate the disaster loan program but all other functions including applications for federal funding for new business have ceased.
Of course at the top of the news this week has been the furlough of almost 60,000 employees of the Department of Interior which controls and operates all areas of our National Park and Wildlife Refuge Systems closing them down to the public. The perfect example of an out of control, out of touch system as National Park employees retained for service are standing guard and barricading open air memorials making sure the public does not recreate in these areas during the shutdown. So ludicrous is this policy that they are telling military veterans that they cannot visit the Vietnam and WWII memorials in Washington DC even though they gave life and limb to defend freedom in this Country. Indeed those memorials are forged with sand, stone, steel, blood, sweat and tears. To tell these veterans they cannot visit them to reflect on the proudest moments of their lives is unconscionable.
On Sunday Oct., 13 thousands of Veterans, their families and supporters took to the streets of DC and removed the barricades to the memorials and visited them like free men and women. They then took up the discarded barricades and carried them from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House to send a message to our leaders. That message: you work for us. A peaceful protest but not without a few contentious moments with police outside the White House gates. Free people exercising free speech was refreshing but sobering at the same time. What brought us to this point was a removal of government services that some have taken for granted and some have become dependent upon. This may not end up being the longest government shutdown in our Nation's history but it may be the most remembered.
Maybe this time it made some Americans realize that they truly aren't free as long as the government controls so many facets of their lives. Maybe this will help our citizens decide what is really important and what the government is supposed to do for us and what we are supposed to do for ourselves.
What is your opinion?
Lew HastingsExecutive DirectorBoca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce
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