Q&A: The Government is Closed!

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All this little guy wanted to do was see the bears at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
(Reddit/WTKR)

If you weren’t aware that the government shut-down their operations last October.. I don’t know where you have been. Reactions nationwide became dramatic. From coverage on major news networks to social media outputs that spanned sixteen days (the most humorous, yet moderately truthful commentary, came from The Onion’s “Last Thing Government Worker Needed Was Agency Labeling Him ‘Nonessential“). But what happened next, actually surprised me.

I am a park guide.

I work for the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior.

So, per the news reports and protocol (but with unexpected realization), my supervisor called me to say that I would be put on leave if a shutdown happened. It did. And according to reports, some 800,000 employees were also furloughed and routine operations were curtailed. Sigh.

The last government shut-down occurred in 1995-96, but threats of pending foreclosures are frequent, especially when Congress fails to pass the budget for the fiscal year. Often it has little relevance to funding; polarization of opinions between the two political parties on major issues can also cause delay. In 2013, the Republican-dominated House sought to block President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after previous attempts. It’s a political move.

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This video showing the sensational encounter between Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and a park ranger at the closed World War II Memorial, perhaps best depicts the effect of the shutdown.
(NBC)

I was recently interviewed by my friend Dan, who was writing a college paper on the incident. It was then, Day 2.

Q: “How has the shutdown affected you personally?”

A: The government shutdown has affected me personally as I was laid-off (unpaid) like many other seasonal employees, but also in the sense that it has affected my own political beliefs regarding what’s been said in the mainstream news and its effect on other citizens.

What sucks the most (for my part) is not being able to do my job and be a public servant. I work primarily on weekends and we often have visitors that travel from across the country to see our unique historic sites. Just last weekend, I had visitors from Kentucky and Georgia. So, I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to share my knowledge with others or just minimally, open the facilities so that the site can be used for recreational use. People complain when they can’t use our bathrooms.

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These people are complaining.
(Michael Mathes/AFP)

Q2: “How and/or when do you see the shutdown ending?”

A: Threats of the government “shutting-down” actually occurs pretty frequently; obviously this time is unique since it hasn’t happened in seventeen years. But I think that most agencies know it’s always a possibility, based on how much funding is allocated per year (sequestration seems to effect the National Park Service every year). For anyone that wants to know, we actually pay 1/13 of $0.01 from our income tax towards the national parks. So, yeah, we pay more for NASA than Yosemite or Yellowstone.

But to answer [your question], I believe it will end when both parties in the House of Reps. comes to an agreement, or when the people start bitching about how it’s effecting them (e.g. parks closing, stock market rates falling, unemployment, etc.). Personally, I don’t anticipate it lasting too terribly long, but reports are estimating that it could be as long as a month. And that would be bad.

Q3: “Who is most at fault in your opinion and why?”

A: Interesting question. And I might be the only one who thinks it, but fault is relative. Pointing-at certain people would be unwise, because I think that all this, is our own doing. We are products of our actions. And what resulted is their effect. As that line from the movie Cool Hand Luke (1967) goes, “failure to communicate”.

See more:

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My reenacting pard, Jason Wickersty, made this graphic to express solidarity amongst furloughed federal employees, now available as stickers! Profits from sales are being donated to the Association of National Park Rangers.
(click to order!)

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