Friday, October 18, 2013
Storming the Barricades
Storming the barricades. You know, that's something which happens somewhere else, maybe a third world nation or someplace trying to break free for a ruthless tyrant. It doesn't even feel right to write the words, "barricades" , and yet that exactly what happen last week. Veterans, those brave men and women, who served our country; who fought, bled, and suffered for our freedoms, denied access to war memorials dedicated by this nation to them, and by extension, to us.
As I'm sure you all know, the government shutdown was all about an attempt by Republicans (specifically we're told, by Tea Partiers) to defeat Obamacare by defunding it. In order to do that, it was reasoned, it was necessary to simply forgo a budget; bring the nation to the financial brink, and the Democrats (or more specifically, Obama) would cave. Easy peasy. Well, not so much.
In the process of teaching Obama and the Democrats a political lesson in hard ball politics, the GOP forgot rule number one: having a backup plan, which generally involves having better PR than your opponent. It all started off with a filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his 21 hour filibuster which included a reading from Psalms, a monologue about poker, Ashton Kutcher, and a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham". Nevertheless, it was all downhill out of the gate as Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried every political trick in the book (including trying to look sincere) to gain political traction, but to no avail. While everyone in the polls took a big hit, the Republicans caught the brunt with the lowest polling of either political party at any time, 28%.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, some 800,000 "non-essential" federal employees were furloughed without pay. Government agencies across the board were affected, including a partial closure of the departments of Homeland Security, Energy, Education, and the EPA. But what seemed to catch the public's attention the most was the partial closure of the Department of Interior which closed our national parks and wildlife refuges like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and of course, the various memorials in and around Washington.
Perhaps the single most memorable act that came out of this governmental debacle, was when a group of WWII veterans attempted to visit the WWII memorial. The memorial was blocked off---barricaded. These old warriors refused to leave. They just stood there. Silent. Waiting. Finally, one lone Park Officer, set aside the barricades so these heroes could go in (he was later reprimanded, and the memorial not just reclosed, but the barricades were wired shut together). Now, I don't care about your politics, but when it comes to how we treat our veterans, especially these brave souls who we are losing at a rate of 650 per day, that's going too far. That memorial, if none other, should have been left open. What made the closure even more repugnant, was that the White House and Department of Interior, which manages the memorial, knew these veterans, who were part of Honor Flight which provides free transportation of veterans to DC to visit the memorials. Rep Steve Palazzo (R-MS) had made several requests to allow these veterans access; all denied by the way. In the end, however, the veterans were victorious. They had beaten the Nazis; Imperial Japan; the Communist North Koreans, and now they've beaten a federal shutdown (it should be mentioned that other veterans who showed up at other memorial sites such as the Vietnam Memorial, were denied access and the areas remained cordoned off).
Nevertheless, as if to get even, the Obama Administration approved a protest and concert on the National Mall by illegal immigrants, which even featured a speech by House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Why did this administration refuse to open parks and memorials for school children and our nation's veterans, but saw fit to allow illegal immigrants access to the National Mall? Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture? According to the spokesperson for the National Park Service, Mike Litterst, the illegal immigrants were afforded the same first amendment rights as were the Honor Flight veterans. The rally, entitled "Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform" was organized by the AFL-CIO and Service Employee International Union (SEIU) along with other pro-amnesty groups. The unions and many businesses having been working together to push for pro-amnesty legislation since this would, on the one hand, increase the size of the workforce and drive down wages and benefits and, on the other hand, hopefully increase union membership and bring badly needed dues into the union's coffers.
First off, these are veterans. Former US servicemen and women who fought for this country and earned a right, not just by birth, but by blood and valor, to be there. Second, the memorial was considered "closed". The veterans entered by force of numbers. Now, these illegal immigrants never earned nor had any such right. The veterans were given no official welcome or escort. There was no official presence of the National Park Service there while the illegal immigrants were allowed full access to the National Mall with available park officers on hand.
In the end, after a 16 day shutdown and bringing the nation to the edge of a financial meltdown, the debt ceiling was raised and the government is funded...for now; Obamacare was untouched. The Supreme Court had previously upheld (improperly I might add) Obamacare as a tax, and it's funded accordingly, along with other fees. The GOP walked away with nothing to show for their efforts except a very angry public. Tens of thousands who rely on the government were threaten with a cut off of their benefits, people like seniors on social security, disabled or retired veterans receiving compensation or retirement, and low income families receiving assistance. The shutdown cost taxpayers approximately $24 billion dollars. Oh, and by the way, since nothing was resolved, we get to do this all over again in January. I'd start stocking up if I were you. It may be a long cold winter.
Number of furloughed workers shrink as shutdown drags on
Here's How Much The Government Shutdown Costs The Economy
Government shutdown: What's opened, what's closed?
Government Shutdown: WWII Vets Say Feds Should Be Ashamed for Closing Their Memorial
Obama admin knew about WWII veterans' request and rejected it
Immigration rally allowed on Mall despite shutdown