Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


October 5, 2013

Times to try American’s patience, mortgage payments, and grocery bills

— — What a week for those (who can) travel. My doctor said he and his family may not cancel a vacation they have been planning for several months but it will certainly be impacted if the government shutdown lasts much longer. With college age children coming home only at selected times, Doc’s family had planned a mid-October getaway and wanted to visit a national park for one of those patented “bonding” experiences away from the big city lights. Unfortunately, that locale is now cordoned off with bright yellow ribbons of tape blocking the entrance.

I, too, had been hoping for an excursion — only a day — at a national park within the coming weeks but when I placed a call Monday morning to see what plans I needed to make, the only greeting was a phone message politely, but firmly, stating that the park, the visitor’s center, all access roads, and all related areas were closed. There was a “p.s.” that the employees hoped this was not a major inconvenience. Not much — certainly not as much as those workers whose jobs expired for a time.

A recent news story spoke of one man who has (had?) three government jobs and lost them all earlier this week. While I am struggling to understand how anyone can hold down three jobs simultaneously, I admire the determination. Since I have not been able to secure even one “government” job I am also a little envious because I have been told that the benefits are excellent — although probably not during shutdown times.

Politicians of both parties, or all three parties, have certainly irritated the American people with a willingness to take their arguments to new heights. Our country has been based upon compromise and now that key element seems to be missing. A few legislators seem to love their TV time, offering its nationwide posturing opportunities. Perhaps that has a lot to do with this latest episode. It seems like a childhood playground argument at times but the stakes are certainly much higher.

Our ability to borrow money, to extend the debt ceiling, to keep from defaulting on our obligations, will soon be called into question. The unwillingness to accept what has already been voted into law is another concern. It all seems so odd to those of us who have to work at regular jobs, who don’t get paid when we don’t work, who have to pay for our own stamps.

A friend in the military has mentioned some cutbacks and changes in procedure on base. I did not have to ask how some of the soldiers feel about congressional members continuing to get paid while many other workers have had their salaries interrupted.  There are approximately one million workers who may have their paychecks suspended.

Speaking of Congress, it amazes many of us that U.S. representatives and senators have to “work” year ‘round. Our state politicians get their jobs done in a few weeks’ time each year and from what we see in the two Virginias, they do a better job than many of the D.C. Beltway legislators. When was the last time Charleston or Richmond closed up shop?

Finally, the shutdown has evidently come at the same time that the third-quarter political fundraising period ends.

Democrats, according to several political observers, see this as an opportunity to maintain control of the Senate. There is a group called Organizing for Action, a Democratically-themed organization, which reportedly is raising money to send messages to Republican House Speaker John Boehner to help approve a spending plan that does not attack the health care law.

Republicans are evidently focusing most of their energy raising money to fight President Obama. What a sad situation — one group working for its advantage and the other doing almost nothing productive, just advancing a campaign of negativity.

From processing plants to Head Start centers, many agencies are affected. No matter which side we are on, it is evident that our national government is in trouble. The scary part is — so are we. Thomas Paine would truly say these are the times that try men’s souls. Along with our mortgage payments and grocery bills.

 I must stop this. It sounds too much like Congress, blaming everybody else for everything else.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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