EditorialsThe real costs

The federal government is not an abstraction in the Methow Valley and shutting it down is not a theoretical political exercise. It’s a real-life hardship with implications that put to shame the extremist ideological posturings of the Republicans who have caused it. And make no mistake, they caused it.

But establishing blame – consider it firmly established, going by the latest opinion polls and any objective assessment – is no solace in the day-to-day for the federal employees who have been furloughed and the millions of blameless Americans who are being harmed by the shutdown.

In the Methow, examples are all around us. If you still want to cling to abstractions about what a good idea it is to stick it to the government, consider this: The people most directly affected are your neighbors, your friends. You see them at community events, supporting the things we consider important. They pay taxes and spend most of their money here. Their kids are in our schools. They are invested in the community and devoted to their professions. What are you going to say when you encounter them? That you’re glad they’re not working because “the government” has to be brought to its knees and Obama’s presidency destroyed?

That’s what passes for rationale in the House of Representatives, apparently. It doesn’t have much to do with humanity or compassion or sensible behavior.

The ripple effects are hurting others as well. Shutting down federal functions such as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service has already begun to have a notable impact on our local economy – just ask any merchant who counts on tourists taking advantage of our recreational wonderland. Routine but vital government functions, large and small, are on hold – which means that commerce will keep slowing down while the shutdown continues. Stop-gap measures will just stop. You or someone you know or care deeply about will be affected, and you will have nowhere to turn for help.

Without the presence of the many town, county, state and federal employees in the Methow Valley – and the contributions of the governments and agencies they represent – you could lock up the storefronts, fire cannons down Riverside Avenue and Glover Street without scaring a soul and turn everything over to the ATV riders. There wouldn’t be anyone left to bother. Every public amenity that makes this place a major attraction would be in a shambles, and the flood of tourists would shrivel to a trickle. If you think we’d do just fine without the visitors, maybe you should look into some of those primitive skills survival classes because you’re going to need them.

The Obama-haters and scorched-earth zealots who are behind the shutdown seem to think that any amount of damage done to human beings, the economy and our political system is worth it to get their way. Take a look around at the real world, and the real people in it, and the real pain that is being caused, and make your own calculation.

–Don Nelson