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Adele Elliott: Inflexibility on a grand scale


Adele Elliott



There is almost nothing in the news these days except the "Government Shutdown." The reasons are as muddy and confusing as an argument with a 3-year-old. The only way to win it is to let the child jabber until they are worn out and fall asleep. 


Much, but not all, of the hype is that Republicans (for the most part) object to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. It is certainly not a perfect plan. There is no public option, so people have no choice but to get care through private insurers. The cost controls are limited, which means that doctors, drug companies and medical-supply companies will likely continue to overcharge patients. (Dr. Dean Baker, macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.) 


However, the fact remains that this bewildering situation is affecting the entire country, not to mention our standing in the respect of the whole world. 


The shutdown means that more than two million federal workers won't get paid on time -- and 800,000 furloughed employees may never get paid for the shutdown period. Flu programs, sponsored by the Center for Disease Control, are canceled, just as flu season kicks into high gear. National parks have closed, which is expected to cause the communities around them to lose an estimated $30 million a day. This country may not be able to pay its debts to foreign countries. 


If the shutdown lasts more than a few weeks, millions of veterans may not get their disability claims or pension payments. Low-income pregnant women and new moms may stop getting the help they need to buy nutritious food for their children. As I write this, the families of soldiers killed while serving this country will receive no benefits owed to them. (My column is written five days before it is published. I hope these things will have been fixed before it goes to press.) 


These problems will have no effect on the office-holders in Washington. They will still get paid. Most members of Congress earn $174,000 a year. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said this week that there is no way he's giving up his salary during the government shutdown. " ... you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college ... " Terry said. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) also said on Wednesday that he would be keeping his salary, because he's "working to earn" it and even came in on the weekend. (Huffington Post, Oct. 9). 


The rest of us, of course, have no houses, no children, no use at all for an income. What are we working for? 


Someone should remind Republicans that Barack Obama is the president of the United States. He was elected twice, both times against some formidable opponents. One of the reasons that he was elected was his promise to establish a national health care plan. 


But, back to the baby analogy. Adults do not just freeze up and refuse to act when they do not get their way. This is a lesson we should all have learned long before we were old enough to vote. 


I could suggest that we all just shut down. We could refuse to pay Atmos, Columbus Light and Water, Four County Electric Power and Dillard's. Well, you get the idea. This, undoubtedly, would not work well. 


Regular citizens cannot get away with the sort of obstruction and obstinacy that will cripple the government, no matter how much we pout. I wish our leaders on every level, from Washington to office-holders and board members in the Golden Triangle, would all just grow up. This country needs a strict mother and a time-out. Any bets on how soon that will happen?


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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