The partial government federal shutdown is now the longest in American history.
And, I don't feel like Americans are nearly as concerned as they should be.
I think this is perhaps because people don't understand how dire the situation truly is. Federal employees are split into “exempted” and “non-exempted,” with the latter group suffering the consequences. (The wording was changed from “essential” and “non-essential” because workers apparently don't feel great about being called “non-essential.”)
Hoosiers seem to be particularly aloof. WalletHub published a study Jan. 3 which listed the states and Washington, D.C. based on the impact of the shutdown. Indiana ranked near the bottom on nearly every metric including: share of federal jobs (43rd), federal contract dollars per capita (43rd), real estate as a percentage of gross state product (48th), access to national parks (50th), and percent of families receiving food stamps (30th).
Even for those who are affected, half-measures are being implemented to remove some of the sting. The United States Department of Agriculture is urging states to request early issuance next month’s of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding for next month to side-step the lack of appropriations.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced Friday they are preparing to issue food stamps early for February to nearly 585,000 Hoosiers on Jan. 16. The Internal Revenue Service has decided to continue issuing refunds to taxpayers, even though that may be illegal.
The National Parks Service is now dipping into entrance fees to pay to keep them open.
But, just because people don't realize this is hurting them, doesn't mean it won't.
Breweries can't get new beers approved with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau being shut down. Per U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, the Food and Drug Administration has stopped most of its food safety inspections.
Transportation Safety Administration employees are required to show up for work without being paid, and many have either quit or simply called in sick.
If we want the shutdown to end anytime soon we have to let the pain be felt by those apparently unbothered by the wheels of government being allowed to grind to a halt. Stop sending people tax refunds, shut down the parks altogether, and stop issuing food stamps. Then, you'll see this end in a hurry.
But, ideally, I would go even further than that.
The amorphous term “government” is blamed for so much by conservatives. We might never have another shutdown again if we stopped separating government workers into “exempted” and “non-exempted” groups. And, not just federal workers, but state and local, as well. Shut down the whole thing the next time politicians want to start playing games. Tell the firefighters to go home. Tell the police to take some time off. Don't clear the snow off the roads during the winter. Don’t pick the trash up.
The jobs done by government workers are mostly thankless because no one notices until they stop doing it.
Feeling their absence may be the only way to show the importance of their presence.