Our View: Federal shutdowns more about grandstanding than policy
January 23, 2018
The latest government shutdown lasted just more than a weekend, although we may run through the same exercise in about three weeks. That's good, but, as always, frustrating. Can you imagine what would happen if you regularly failed to do your job?
Over the years, government shutdowns have become more political theater than anything else. Who else remembers the shutdown in 2013 in which the unmonitored World War II monument was shut off to the public?
Shutdown theater is just the most glaring example of the disease that afflicts our politicians today. Too many or our representatives seem uninterested in doing the people's business, preferring to score points against the opposition or get their faces and voices into the never-ending news cycle.
It's cynical, it's self-serving and it's wrong.
The concern here, though, is less about the glory hogs of Washington, D.C., and more toward the rank-and-file federal employees who actually work with the public.
Those folks, relatively few in number in our region, have an outsized influence due to the amount of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
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In Eagle County, the feds manage more than 70 percent of all of the land in the county, including our ski areas. That's important work, done by people who earn relatively modest salaries while employed by chronically cash-strapped agencies.
Like teaching, nursing and other professions, people who manage federal land at the local level do those jobs more out of love or sense of duty than any expectation of getting rich.
Those are the people who bear the brunt of federal shutdowns, not the bosses in Washington. (As an aside, does anyone else find it fundamentally wrong that some of the wealthiest zip codes in our country are those located around the nation's capitol?)
Unfortunately, there aren't many solutions to shutdown theater. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, a few years ago introduced legislation that would cut the federal budget by 1 percent every time Congress comes to an impasse.
To absolutely no one's surprise, that idea hasn't gone anywhere.
Sadly, until we impose term limits on Congress — something that would require a constitutional amendment — we're probably stuck with shutdown theater until those 535 people decide the people's business should be the focus of their highly paid, part-time jobs.
Don't hold your breath.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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