This letter is in response to the articles covering the federal government shutdown that began Oct. 1.
Over 30 years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union (as well as the world) came face-to-face with the possibility of nuclear annihilation due to risky political and military brinkmanship. So too today, the country is now embroiled in yet another risky political, economic and social game of chicken and whistling Dixie; the likes of which bear a strong threat to the survival of our republic, as well as what it means to be a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
The issues before the American people are clear; according to the U.S. Treasury, the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling must be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid a potential default on the U.S. debt. The ramifications of this would be an economic Armageddon for the entire planet. We are already witnessing the effects of this shutdown on our country, whether it be through government furloughs all the way to the stoppage of government services, not to mention the exponential effect on the private sector.
The "sticking point" that appears to be the cause of the impasse between the president, Senate Democrats and House Republicans are the issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." I don't know if this is the first time that a government shutdown was used as leverage to challenge legislation (that is now the law of the land) at the risk of putting the country and the world in serious jeopardy, but it certainly seems very foolish to do so.
In retrospect, the goal of extending healthcare to all Americans should have been the result of expanding Medicaid and not this monstrosity of legislation to overhaul many parts of the healthcare system that simply don't need fixing. The Affordable Care Act was not presented well from the beginning and should have been passed with bi-partisan agreement, not rammed down the throats of the opposition party. Regardless of the pure intentions, it should have taken second priority to what has been (and is) really ailing America--unemployment. Job one for the president and Congress beginning on January 1, 2009, should have been developing the means to get this country moving again by helping to unleash America's most powerful machine--it's economy.
Bailing out Wall Street and "banks too big to fail" was one of the dumbest policy decisions made by the president and Congress. The federal government should have seized control of these financial institutions (much like the FDIC did with banks that defaulted) and then facilitated the selling off of parts to medium-sized banks that did not engage in the behaviors that resulted in the "mortgage meltdown." Too late now.
As for getting people back to work, the solution is not as complicated as it may appear to be. We need to bring back an agency similar (but not identical) to the Work Progress Administration (WPA), which should take a two-pronged approach. One is the most obvious--hire people to perform the very services (and more) that the private sector will never engage in simply because it is not profitable to do so. The second approach is a wee bit more complicated, but can be successful by utilizing private-public partnerships. Let the government (at all levels) develop a plan to temporarily share in the salary expense of unemployed people, so that they could work fulltime, regain their lost skills and eventually retain a fulltime position paid by the private company. This would result in a immediate restoration of lost government revenues, as well as help to "prime the pump" for the newfound consumer demand. Increasing demand will result in the need for increased supply, and hence, an increase in production that will result in increased employment.
You could think of this "stimulus" plan as a rocket booster that slowly fades away as the economy picks up. Isn't this what government is supposed to do beyond providing safety for its citizens? Is it too late now? I hope not, but to continue to waste time over which side wins (while the rest of the country goes to hell) risks moving America's dissatisfaction with government to the disbelief of the legitimacy of those who do govern.
The question before us all is this: How far down must this country sink before it becomes clear and apparent that current government officials have forfeited their right to govern? Time is running out, folks. Now do the job you were elected to do and end this shutdown before it reaches a point of calamity that breaks our country and unleashes total anarchy. It's up to you to put an end to this.