Our government’s disdain for the American public is on full display as the pageantry continues during the so-called shutdown.
Instead of showing true remorse that the nation has no approved budget, is $17 trillion in debt and could be teetering on the brink of default, our fearless leaders are enforcing petty restrictions to punish the public.
The government claims national parks and monuments must be closed because without a budget, no funding is available to keep them open. At issue is a stalemate between Congress and President Barack Obama over the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and whether to raise the debt ceiling, a move that would allow the nation to borrow more money and go even further into debt.
Across the nation, from Yellowstone National Park in California to the waterways of the Florida Keys, park police are dutifully guarding federal land from tourists, military veterans, homeowners and others who are trying to enjoy themselves. The government claims the areas can't remain open due to the lack of an approved budget. Yet it continues to employ police to keep people out.
Meanwhile, up to 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, many without pay. And while the government worker bees are going without, paychecks are still flowing for Congress. By one estimate, Congress has been paid more than $2 million since the shutdown began more than a week ago.
Various closures enforced by the government range from the absurd to the heartless.
The shutdown has stranded about 2,200 workers inside the Grand Canyon National Park, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. Some employees are unable to get their final paychecks and are relying on a local charity for food. "Tables of food" are disappearing nearly as soon as they are put out, as the situation turns dire, the newspaper reported.
In Florida, the National Park Service in Florida Bay demanded that charter fishing boats not travel into about "1,100 square miles of open ocean," according to Brietbart.com.
National Park rangers in Nevada forced out senior citizen homeowners living on federal land near Lake Mead, a popular resort area about 24 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Park officials told the residents they could "get in and get out," to gather belongings from their residences but they could not sleep there overnight, according to KTNV Channel 13.
At Yellowstone National Park, a group of senior citizens were barked at by armed park police as they were ordered to exit the park. Some tourists thought they were being arrested. The group was also barred from using restrooms during a two-and-a-half hour ride out of the park, according to reports.
In South Dakota, traffic cones lined the sides of a roadway near Mount Rushmore in an apparent attempt to prevent the public from pulling over to photograph or view the mountain. This is apparently a cost-saving measure. Some protesters posted pictures on various social media sites as a way to encourage people to take down the cones or drive over them.
Closing the parks shows the government could care less about families who spend weeks or months anticipating a vacation at one of them. Our government doesn't even seem to care if people have traveled from other parts of the world to see the sights only to be turned away. It also shows total disregard for surrounding business owners who are losing the money they used to draw from the tourists.
In a move that saves virtually no money, certain government websites, such as those belonging to NASA and the Department of Agriculture, are currently shuttered. Visitors are greeted by a splash page that says the websites are no longer available due to the shutdown. This only serves to inconvenience people who are seeking information. Other government websites, including the one for the Department of Homeland Security, are still accessible but have messages at the top stating they may not be updated.
Deplorable treatment of military veterans
Last week a group of World War II veterans - some of them in their 90s - arrived in Washington, D.C. to view a memorial built in their honor. They were part of a program called Honor Flights, which helps pay for the veterans' expenses to visit the memorials. Upon their arrival, veterans were greeted by temporary barricades designed to keep them out.
Hundreds of veterans were able to gain entry after the barricades were pushed aside. Some were assisted by several members of Congress. In October, a total of 35,000 veterans are scheduled to visit. But ABC News reported the memorial was again closed and Honor Flights was informed that visitors should not expect entry.
In protest, another group of veterans this weekend is planning to storm the memorials and monuments the government shutdown is preventing them from seeing.
Billions of dollars in veterans benefits could be impacted, as well.
According to CBS News, "If the shutdown doesn't end soon, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department won't be able to ensure that checks go out on Nov. 1 for 5.18 million beneficiaries, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told House Veterans' Affairs Committee. That amounts to $6.25 billion in payments that VA beneficiaries are expecting."
The shutdown is also preventing families of fallen soldiers from receiving benefits that include a $100,000 death gratuity, a 12-month housing allowance and funeral expenses.
The treatment of our veterans during the shutdown is particularly deplorable, especially in light of the high suicide and homeless rate facing this population. The suicide rate is estimated to be more than 22 per day for veterans. Additionally, an estimated one in seven homeless people in our nation served in the military.
Bashing the disadvantaged
There isn't too much sympathy out there today for poor people. The government shutdown has reflected that, as well.
Funding is in peril for Head Start, an education program for low-income preschool children. Federal grants for seven programs in six states were delayed because of the government shutdown, NBC News reported. A billionaire couple later stepped forward to pledge $10 million to help save the programs. The Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is also being impacted. In North Carolina, the program is being stopped due to the government shutdown.
As the shutdown continues at Grand Canyon National Park, workers stranded there are facing dire circumstances as they struggle with meeting basic needs such as food, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Of the 2,200 people left in the park, about 1,800 are concessionaire employees. One worker reportedly has $100 to his name and was looking for his final paycheck to allow him to leave.
"Xanterra, the park’s largest contractor, continues to feed its employees three meals a day, but only provides one meal per day to family members of employees, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. "Many other employees who live inside the National Park don’t receive food from their employers."
The shutdown is continuing, but we can almost bet the budget ceiling will rise, just as it always does, and the government will not default on its debt. Congress likes to put on a show right up until the last minute, especially on critical issues. Then rest assured that Obamacare and the budget ceiling will go through, maybe with a few minor changes, just as it was always planned.