June 17, 2024

Far from the suffering they caused


Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Far from the suffering they caused

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Who really was hurt by the government shutdown? Government employees? Yes, but to a very limited degree because Congress is compensating them for the down time, which means they were the recipients of an unscheduled two-week paid vacation. The folks actually hurt by the shutdown included almost everyone who does business with the government. From defense contractors to caterers, the two week layoffs were uncompensated.

Private companies idled workers in various percentages, some probably as high as 100 percent. A number of these employees, like many people, live from paycheck to paycheck, which means that a half-month paycheck just does not do it.

Anecdotal evidence abounds about the destructive shutdown. From the local ice cream parlor to the branch bank, proprietors noticed a marked disruption in customer traffic. Laid off employees tend not to spend money.

The shutdown also skewed national statistics. Unemployment figures, interest rates, and Gross Domestic Product, among others, were impacted and, in effect, gave off temporarily abnormal numbers.

Perhaps the clearest way to look at the shutdown is to view it as a tax on working people because wages not received are the same as wages confiscated through taxation. It is as though Congress declared a Shutdown Tax on those people least able to afford it.

So when Republican and Democratic politicians alike bemoaned the tactics of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party that held the government hostage with its impossible demands, they should have said that America’s working people were the hostages, and America’s working people paid the ransom.

The working people paid the price, and most of them suffered in silence, a silent suffering that has been all too common in our history. In his final address at West Point, General Douglas MacArthur referred to the old soldier who just fades away, and like that old soldier, the average hardworking American suffers for their leaders’ failings and just fades way, a fact upon which those leaders rely. Political leaders could have prevented most of America’s wars, especially the Civil War that took 623,000 soldiers’ and untold civilians’ lives. They could have prevented the horrors of the Great Depression and the devastation of the Great Recession.

Those leaders all had one thing in common. They would garner glory if their decisions proved prescient and beneficial, but the most that most of them would lose if their decisions proved to be otherwise were their offices. It is this disconnect between decision and execution that has led to so many harmful events. Unlike the officer who fights alongside the troops and shares their depravations and terrors, our political leaders often stand far away from the frontlines, far away from the people who will execute their decisions and suffer the consequences of their errors in judgment.

It is in this context in this latest fiasco that Tea Party zealots turned a blind eye to the pain they were causing, and like zealots and demagogues before them, they were inured to the suffering by their distance from it.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.


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