Upon waking up Tuesday morning, many people felt fear and anger as the nation faced one of the biggest disasters of 2013: the National Zoo’s Panda Cam ran dark. The Panda Cam, along with other government services deemed “nonessential,” were shut down at midnight on Tuesday morning. While this may make the shutdown seem inconsequential, the real horror is less talked about. Until the House and Senate can come together and find an agreement on the budget, not only will the Panda Cam be off, but over 800,000 government employees will not be paid.
Congress needs to set party lines aside and come to a quick decision to stop the shutdown in its tracks. It is unfair and disgusting that members of the government cannot stop squabbling like children at the expense of others. Almost one million innocent civilians are effectively unemployed at the moment, yet congress won’t even experience this strain because their three figure salaries will remain untouched, despite the shutdown.
CNN’s Ashley Banfield asked two Republican senators on Monday if they would be giving up their $174,000 a year paychecks during the shutdown, like the other Americans not given a choice. The senators, Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Dana Rohrabacher of California, quickly tried to change the subject, but eventually acknowledged that it was unfair that they would receive pay.
Many of the nonessential services that have been shut down are essential to many Americans. For example, 52% of the Department of Health and Services will not be able to aid people, the Department of Homeland Security will stop funding disaster-preparedness grants to states, the Department of Transportation will stop inspecting airports, veterans will not receive benefits, and the tourism industry will lose millions. It is estimated that the US economy will lose an astonishing $1 billion dollars a week while shutdown. For many people, their livelihoods will be taken away because our representatives are failing to do their jobs.
Specifically, the Republican Party is to blame. They have made four attempts to block the Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare by supporters and critics alike, resulting in a stalemate as Democrats have rejected their budget proposal attempts every time. The GOP’s preoccupation with blocking affordable health care and aversion to compromising a budget that contains the Affordable Care Act has lead to these hundreds of thousands of people temporarily losing their income.
Republicans need to stop fighting old battles. They lost on the healthcare issue, more than forty-one times. By refusing to pass a budget as retaliation for their loss, they are dragging the country down. This is why congress as a whole, specifically those who caused the shutdown, should have to give up their salaries during the time of the shutdown. By doing so, more pressure would be put on members to resolve the budget issue as timely as possible.
Until then, congress needs to figure out when to compromise, and stop hurting innocent Americans.