It had been predicted for weeks and months beforehand, and came as no real surprise, but when the partial federal government shutdown started on Oct. 1, groans of fear and disappointment still rippled across Tooele County.
The groans were no knee jerk reaction. For local citizens, and for the county’s recovering economy after years of slowed growth due to the Great Recession, the shutdown couldn’t have come at a worse time. The federal government is the largest employer in the county, with more than 1,300 employees, and pays out reportedly $96 million per year in payroll.
And those groans weren’t just from federal government workers who are now furloughed—or were furloughed—without the promise of back pay, or are working without pay until the government reopens. Groans were also heard from businesses across the county that need federal workers to bring home a consistent paycheck and spend it locally, and from citizens who rely on various federal programs to make ends meet.
Although a major portion of furloughed workers have been called back to work, like 478 civilian employees at Dugway Proving Ground, there are others whose future remains uncertain. The shutdown is now a week old, and yet it appears the budget dispute between President Barack Obama, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives over the Affordable Care Act, will continue. At press time, House Speaker John Boehner said Obama’s refusal to negotiate was the cause of the shutdown. Conversely, Obama said he refuses to negotiate with Boehner under the threat of a protracted shutdown until Republicans get all that they want. With such a war of words, it appears a deal won’t occur anytime soon.
And regrettably at a possible high cost to all of us. Beyond the impacts the shutdown presents locally, there are countless Americans who too are feeling the effects, both directly and indirectly. Plus, because of the shutdown, many federal workers in the county, and others nationwide, won’t get paid until Congress and Obama strike an accord.
If the shutdown continues for several more days, even weeks, the short and long term affect on the local and national economy may cut deep. Furthermore, our nation’s standing as being a world leader in democracy and economic security is damaged—perhaps irreparably. If the Oct. 17 debt-ceiling deadline is allowed to lapse by Congress because of the stalemate, the damage will be certain.
With that said, it is unfortunate and regrettable that our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. have allowed the shutdown to occur, and are allowing it to continue on the backs of millions of innocent American citizens who may pay the highest price of all. It is unfortunate and regrettable that our elected leaders are so entrenched in their political views, and so committed to be “right” at any cost, that compromise, the very thing that makes our democracy thrive despite opposing viewpoints, appears far out of reach.
Nevertheless, our nation’s elected leaders are urged to let go of the need to be right, and to instead negotiate a compromise to the budget impasse in good faith for the sake of the nation and for Tooele County’s citizens and economy.