Following the deal that ended our government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, I’ve seen quite a few comments from people with a cynical view of the shutdown, basically shrugging their shoulders and implying that nobody really noticed the government was closed to begin with.
Sure, many Americans probably didn’t feel any impact due to the government shutdown, but many others did. Not only did they feel the impact, it devastated their lives.
While Republicans liked to use our national monuments as staging grounds for photo-ops and talking points, they seemed to only focus on the cheap “outrage” of military veterans not being able to visit sites like the WWII monument. Sure, it made for a great headline, but that’s all it was—a headline.
“How dare you barricade veterans from having access to these monuments dedicated to them! Obama’s not an American!”
Well, that’s what a government shutdown is. They wanted it, they got it. Then they whined about the ramifications.
What they failed to mention were the lives that were devastated due to the closure of our national parks and monuments. Those Americans whose livelihood relies on tourism to these places. Those families who lost out on over two weeks of revenue — approaching the holiday season, no less — because some Republicans in Congress felt like throwing a tempter tantrum over “Obamacare.”
Take Estes Park, Colorado for instance. A community already trying to clean up from terrible summer floods, hit with another disastrous blow when our government was shut down. A town that relies heavily on tourism and was already reeling due to the flooding which washed away roads and drove that tourism away — then had to overcome the closure of the Rocky Mountain National Park, which caused some businesses to layoff workers.
Then add the fact that as the state recovers from the massive flooding, some of the government workers they needed to help speed up the process weren’t working—because they had been furloughed.
This is a story you won’t see Ted Cruz talk about, because it won’t get him as many headlines as showing up to a march in Washington, D.C., at a war monument.
You also won’t see him talk about the lives in California that were impacted by the shutdown due to Yosemite being closed. Lives that weren’t even really beginning to recover from the horrific wildfires they faced a few weeks back then had to deal with this asinine government shutdown.
People like Pamela Harris, who ran a local deli that counted on tourist traffic. “I’m not able to make any of my bills,” she told CBS News in a heartbreaking interview. “That’s why I have to be out by the end of the month. Can’t pay my rent, can’t pay my electricity, can’t—I’m gonna leave here in debt.”
After 10 years in business, she’s going out of business because of the shutdown. A shutdown Ted Cruz pushed so heavily for, simply to further his political aspirations for president and pander to the tea party.
Because he wanted to win a few straw polls, and get his name some recognition, people like Ms. Harris have lost their homes and their businesses.
Or there’s somebody like John Anderson. A line cook at the American Indian Smithsonian Museum who was already struggling, living paycheck to paycheck, is now living day to day after going over two weeks without pay. He’s not a government employee, he’s a contract worker. There’s no backpay for him. The last 2+ weeks of him not working are two weeks of much needed income he’ll never get back.
But that’s okay, John Boehner really didn’t want to risk losing his position as Speaker of the House. So he blocked the vote on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution and shut down the government. Who cares if that meant Mr. Anderson didn’t get pay for two weeks? Boehner needed to pander to the tea party as long as possible so he could keep his job safe. That’s all that matters, right?
And these stories barely scratch the surface of the thousands of similar stories that could be told in this country. American lives that were devastated, some permanently, because Republicans felt like playing partisan politics to accomplish a goal they stood absolutely no chance at accomplishing.
So while it made great headlines for right-wing media pundits to talk about the “appalling” act of closing war memorials to veterans, they seemed to forget the stories of the lives terribly damaged because their party would rather try to burn this country to the ground just to spite President Obama and anything he supports.
I just hope that by next November, voters don’t forget the stories of Estes Park and Yosemite, already devastated by floods and wildfires and then dealt a completely unnecessary nail in the coffin from congressional Republicans. I hope we don’t forget the stories of John Anderson and Pamela Harris, and the thousands of others in similar situations whose lives have been turned upside down due to a cowardly act of political grandstanding.
I hope we all remember how the ridiculous antics of the Republican party were the direct cause of so many lives being devastated. All for a pointless government shutdown that was driven by their ignorance, their pride and their need to pander to the right-wing tea party extremists running their pathetic excuse for a political party.
Image via CBS News