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Local

Can we just fire everybody? Please?

It’s been how many days since the government federal government shut down? Has anybody noticed?

Illinois doesn’t rely on the federal government for much. Each year, we pay out more in taxes than we receive from Washington, meaning we’re subsidizing other programs in other states. We have no national parks – and no, Starved Rock isn’t becoming one, nor should it – we have no international borders, none of the marquee programs that are the most visible, with the exception of Social Security offices.

My life hasn’t changed one iota since the shutdown. I’m fortunate for that, in a lot of ways. I have a good job, so I don’t have to rely on government assistance to buy food. That job also provides health benefits, so I don’t have to rely on government assistance to pay for my medical bills. And if something were to go wrong, I have a family that can support me until I right the ship again.

Yes, I worked hard to get to this point, and had opportunities afforded me because my parents worked hard, and their parents, going back to the first Solari who boarded a ship of Genoa, Italy, and never looked back. There also was a lot of luck involved. No one in my family ever had the breadwinner suddenly be unable to make a living because of injury or illness. We never missed out on a scholarship that could make or break whether we could afford college.

For people who do hit those rough patches, there are other programs. Indigent people can apply for Medicaid and the government will help pay for their health care. If you make less than $1,287 a month – full-time work at $8 an hour, which is above the federal minimum wage – and live alone, you qualify for food assistance. It goes up from there if you have children or dependents.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not affected by the shutdown. SNAP benefits, food assistance, could be, however, if the shutdown goes on past January.

Of course, there are more than 800,000 government workers who are not getting paid. Some, deemed essential, are required to work without pay, although they should receive back pay once the government opens again. Workers not considered essential have received back pay in the past, but it is not a guarantee.

We’re less than a week away from this being the longest shutdown in American history. And the reasons are, like most things to come out of government, are ridiculous.

The president said recently that he was prepared to keep the government shut down for months or even years, if necessary. He wants $5 billion for a border wall, that could be metal or see-through. Other leaders in Washington, although I use the term loosely there, are trying to change the discussion to border security, rather than fixating on a wall.

The president also said that he would be proud to shut down the government over this wall, in a televised meeting with congressional leaders that he orchestrated. He didn’t want to say that, of course, but he got outsmarted and beat at his own game.

The president is not an idiot, but he does need to learn that in Washington, D.C., there is always somebody smarter than you, no matter who you are.

Winston Churchill, in one of the sayings attributed to him, said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

America, despite being the trendsetter for modern democracy around the globe, seems to be especially bad at it lately. It’s not that too few individuals hold the power to do what they want – although that is a problem elsewhere that needs to be addressed – but that it’s possible for one or two people to prevent anything from being done.

Government’s purpose is to regulate the allocation of resources. There isn’t a political philosophy that disagrees with that premise, only how things need to be divided among the people and how much regulation there should be. An inability to compromise on one issue that prevents the distribution of other resources is a failure.

For a long time, government has been allocating resources to help the unfortunate in this country – a good philosophy that should be continued. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it, and no one asking for it should be shamed.

But I think it’s fair to say to our leaders – again, for lack of a better, or printable, term – that they had one job, and their performance review isn’t going to look too good.

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