Nearly 12 billion miles from Earth, humanity’s farthest reach is flying ever farther away. Last week, it was announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1976, had finally reached interstellar space. And it keeps going.
It flies as testament to the power of people. It flies as testament to America — what a nation is able to achieve with perseverance, creativity and ambition.
It flies in stark contrast to today’s American government, shut down this week by an utterly petulant and reckless group of congressmen.
Due to a small cadre of hardline conservatives’ unwillingness to accept a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court, Tuesday’s federal government shutdown brought widespread closings and furloughs across the country, including much of NASA.
Even though the health insurance exchange marketplaces of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” went live, the stonewalling group led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, refuse to back down from their ridiculous demand: that all funding for Obamacare be stripped from the 2014 fiscal year budget. Hence, with no budget on the first day of the fiscal year, the federal government has scaled down to only services and employees deemed “essential.”
It was wholly and embarrassingly avoidable. It’s a fabricated crisis with a fabricated premise. Rather than admit defeat and move on to reconcile and engage with the new law, these Congressmen decided to bring the entire government down with them, and much of the media has wrongly portrayed this as a product of “bipartisan gridlock,” perhaps to avoid allegations of bias. Let us be clear: The blame must lie on these conservative Congressmen alone.
In their efforts to justify such a shocking, unnecessary move, these congressmen have ignored basic facts and the reality of the situation. The Affordable Care Act is constitutional — the Supreme Court’s June 2012 ruling on National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius upheld it. It isn’t “socialist” law. In fact, it bolsters private health insurance by adding millions of Americans to those companies’ enrollments. There are no “death panels.” There is no “jail time” for those who refuse to comply with the law. And yet, the congressmen have based their arguments claiming the contrary to each of these. It’s a complete disservice to the American people, and it’s a total mockery of their responsibilities as the people’s representatives.
Many Congressional conservatives have claimed an “electoral mandate” from the Tea Party victories in 2010 — that they were elected to repeal the health care law. That’s rewriting history. In 2010, the focus was on “jobs, jobs, jobs” — in fact, House Speaker John Boehner’s original adjective for the law was “job-killing.” As it turns out, nearly 800,000 public employees were sent home Tuesday. How’s that for killing jobs?
Despite old claims to be primarily focused on improving the economy, the myopic actions of these congressmen will likely cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the economy every day of the shutdown. One thing they have ironically accomplished is their goal of making government “smaller” and “more efficient.” The federal government is now literally as small and efficient as it possibly can muster, although it comes at the expense of nearly everyone in the country.
Here in Columbia, it may seem easy for most students to ignore the shutdown so far. Police, fire and ambulance services are still operating; the university itself has not closed its doors. But students must pay attention: Congress’ inadequacies are hurting us all. We have done our part — paid our taxes to provide the government with revenue to spend. Now, thanks to these childish congressmen trying to make a point and fight after the fight’s already finished, the government is unable to spend our tax dollars on the services we need.
One particular area of concern is the money our government gives to veterans and current military members and their families. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced if the shutdown lasts through “late October,” all benefits checks to veterans, such as compensation, disability and pension payments, will be “suspended.” MU students receiving VA benefits, be they veterans themselves or dependents of military members, are not exempt. Their tuition assistance could be heavily delayed or even stopped. That’s unacceptable; those who have served and sacrificed for our country do not deserve to be hurt by Congress’ flippancy.
MU should follow the heartening lead of its crosstown neighbor. The Columbia Missourian reported Tuesday that Columbia College will provide a six-month extended payment plan for students receiving military tuition assistance. We think that’s a great move — providing relief to those students even if it temporarily inconveniences the college’s coffers. MU should offer the same to its military benefits students; they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can continue to attend this university due to the shutdown.
Is this how things will get done now in Congress? Will the government shut down every time a group of representatives decide they’d like to make a point? Are the livelihoods of millions, the benefits to our nation’s veterans and the very operations of the government to be used as leverage to score political points?
For years now, Washington has been shuffling from crisis to crisis, from debt-ceiling showdowns to basic budget appropriations. The American people have been toys to them, the idea of “business as usual” a product of the past. Congress must rise beyond politics, and we think it starts by electing representatives who place their country over their party. The shutdown must end, and then we must work to ensure the government — and everything it’s capable of — is never thrown into such jeopardy again.
Start a discussion
Concurrence or rebuttal, if you have a strong opinion, let's hear it. The Maneater Forum seeks to publish a diversity of opinions and foster meaningful decision. Readers are encouraged to actively contribute to and develop new discussions. Add to ours, or make your own point.