As one surveys the morass in what purports to be our national government, it is difficult to decide where to begin expressing opprobrium.
Simply put, a pox on all their houses, from the big white one on Pennsylvania Avenue to the domed building to which we send 535 of our most public spirited and politically savvy citizens. Oh, stop laughing; I didn’t mean that to be funny.
Conduct like this on a school playground would be rewarded with a couple of afternoons of washing blackboards after class, or it would have back in the days when classrooms had blackboards. This is not a topic with which I am unfamiliar.
I claim for myself the distinction of being the product of the first vocational education program in Polk County schools. I was schooled in the art of blackboard washing from an early age, and with all due modesty, my skills were in high demand by my teachers.
Contrary to the efforts of each party and two of the three branches of government (the Supreme Court has somehow missed out on the fray) none of the combatants can be assigned total blame. For starters, none of them is that powerful, or that clever, or conceivably (and this is open to conjecture) that stupid.
The network personalities, even the ones who usually show more maturity, are wringing their hands in mostly anti-Republican alarm. Don’t these guys remember that this is the 17th federal government shutdown since 1976? Somehow, the republic has survived.
Stories begin with statements like, “Families of service members killed in the War on Terrorism will not get their $100,000 death gratuity because of the shutdown.”
A couple of sentences later, it is explained that they won’t get it this week.
And that, of course, is because some bonehead bureaucrat decided to implement this asinine policy. Let’s see ... bureaucrats answer, through a food chain that stretches around the world to the President, whether he be a Democrat or a Republican.
And with each such disclosure, a divided Congress unanimously passes a law to restore a modicum of sanity to a federal government in which sanity has become a rare virtue.
Paychecks continue, of course, to the White House and Congress.
Federal law enforcement agencies have been scaled back, though some officers have chosen to come to work “without pay.”
And the Park Service has dutifully barricaded our most hallowed national monuments to protect them from wheelchair-bound World War II veterans who might be intent on destroying them.
As for “without pay” — when this whole charade ends, one of the first actions of Congress will be to pass a law paying employees for the days spent off of work.
Some jobs, of course, are secure. The chances are the First Lady is not yet scrubbing the White House bathrooms, and the President is not reduced to flying commercial. Nor should they.
The House of Representatives managed to keep its gymnasium open until some whistle-blower let the cat out of the bag.
Even military leaders, who customarily demonstrate a “Can Do” attitude in the face of adversity, are in the news at regular intervals spouting off what appear to be PR agent-generated talking points emanating from Washington.
In the end, the wheels of government will be reinflated, the sleeping juggernaut of bureaucracy will lumber back to life, and all the furloughed government employees will receive back pay for not doing the work they were forbidden to perform.
And what will the voters do in the next election?
Re-elect almost all the incumbents from both parties.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. It is at times like this that he recalls that classic bit of advice: anyone who loves sausage or respects the law should never watch either being made.)