Friday, October 4, 2013

Shut down

To quote a co-worker, “The federal government is the only entity that could cut costs and shut down, and still lose money.”
When I look at the things people are whining about that have been closed due to the shutdown, I ask myself where the logic is in many of these programs.
For instance- the national monuments in Washington, DC have been closed. Each of these monuments has a gift shop that has been closed. I understand the monument being closed, as it costs federal dollars to pay the upkeep, power bill, security, etc. But the gift shop? Are you telling me that the money-making business isn’t profitable and requires federal dollars to maintain? How about step #1 is we stop putting federal tax dollars into postcards for tourists, and force the stores to run themselves? It seems so logical.
Next, national parks have also been closed. Again, I understand why. Maintenance, ranger staff, etc., they all cost money to operate. Except don’t most parks also charge admission? And have charitable organizations that support them? How is it then that they also need federal tax dollars? I think the problem here is that the federal government is supporting them at all. Why aren’t these parks (which often have restaurants, gift shops, classes, etc., inside) self-supporting? It seems fairly logical to me that they should actually be able to make money, and not drain federal tax dollars!
And the panda cam? Seriously? It’s not the absurdity that it had to be shut down. It’s the absurdity that tax dollars paid for it at all! Are you really telling me that there isn’t some corporation out there that wouldn’t love to sponsor the panda cam just for the goodwill PR benefits? Or a non-profit that wouldn’t raise funds to pay for it? I’d donate, wouldn’t you? Or how about people have to pay “admission” to view the panda cam?
Here’s another little thing to think about- a friend of mine works for a government contractor. S/he has been vocal about how “stupid” the government is for shutting down. And regularly vents and complains about all the “perks” that “Congress” receives. (I beg you, please, share with me just one “perk” that you can back up with unbiased facts.) Meanwhile his/her company (again- a federal contractor) is having the company party this week. It’s a massive, huge festival/fair. Roller coasters, games, rides, free food, etc. It easily will cost the company about $1M. Is it not hypocritical to demand that “congress” (I think many people use this term completely wrong) live frugally, and demand on a shoestring operation, while spending federal dollars on roller coasters and cotton candy? Or is it because you perceive that elected officials are all wealthy and chose their careers that you don’t see it the same way when your upper management is wealthy and also chose their careers?
Ultimately what is happening right now in our legislative branch is an amazing and elegant thing. Simply put, this country is equally split on a very divisive new law. Some believe that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing, others do not. Our elected representatives are only a reflection of the divided country. Our elected officials are representing what we as a country feel.
So how about instead of complaining and criticizing them, we support them? Has anyone considered that angle? Has anyone really thought about the fact that this is all a good thing?
Sure the shutdown is effecting millions of people. But right now the government is doing something many of us are not brave enough to do in our own lives. When you run out of money, you stop spending. It’s the “first rule of holes” concept (stop digging). When a business runs out of money, it goes out of business. It lays off employees. It cuts costs. It looks for new ways to make money.
Shouldn’t the government do the same?
I do feel a great deal of sympathy for my furloughed friends. I was unemployed and underemployed for 3 years. Believe me, I know how hard and scary it is to not know how long it will be until you get your next paycheck. But here’s the good news- you know you will get one. Most people don't have that peace of mind.
So I beg of my friends, instead of complaining about the government, stop and ask yourself what is really important. Where should tax dollars be spent? On the panda cam? And where can revenue be found? A museum gift shop?
And here's some food for thought- Mitt Romney took a debt-riddled Massachusetts, turned it around, and made it a profitable state in just one term in office. How? He turned resource-sucking programs into revenue generating ones. 
Makes you wish things had gone differently one year ago. 
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