Is there anything positive that has come about or is even projected to occur as a result of the current government shutdown? Other than helping to frame more clearly how operationally dysfunctional our national leadership has become, is there any benefit to anyone from the increasingly dangerous weakening of the operations of our federal government?  

Some press reports have focused on the serious economic impact of no paychecks for some 800,000 government employees. That’s certainly important. And others have focused on the ripple effects of the shutdown, such as an increasing number of TSA employees calling in “sick,” rather than being forced to work for no pay in their $17-per-hour jobs. That’s worrisome, too.    

But now, we are starting to get reports of an even wider range of consequences that threaten the heartland. For example, American farmers, faced with lack of support and coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lack crucial information for their spring planting, which could adversely affect their businesses and the nation’s food supply. We also hear about states that are rushing to pay February federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits before money for that program runs out. And then there is the mounting strain on private food banks, local free loan societies, social service agencies and other communal services that many unpaid government workers are relying upon to help address their basic needs.

Last week, the White House doubled its estimate of damage to the economy from the shutdown, saying that it will subtract 0.1 percent from the GDP. But that number may be wrong, since those charged with developing it are another casualty of the shutdown.

Americans are starting to lose patience, as the rest of the world laughs at us. And for this we have no one to blame but our leaders. Our president’s temper tantrum over his precious wall is embarrassing, but the Democratic leadership’s own intransigence is no less cringeworthy. We could do without the entertainment of the threatened cancellation of the president’s State of the Union address, and the amusing but wholly juvenile nixing of a congressional junket. Instead, both sides should spend their time figuring out how to get our federal government back to work, even if it means massaging some egos.     

The shutdown is a gratuitous act of cruelty against Americans by their own elected officials. As both sides jockey for position and insult each other, the country suffers. We deserve better from our elected officials, and it is simply immoral for them to force the consequences of their own incompetence on federal employees who need their jobs, and on the rest of the country that is forced to grapple with unintended consequences.  

The president and Congress should open the government immediately, and let America go back to work. Our esteemed leaders can then go off and insult each other on their own time. JN

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