So in the United States, the federal government is shut down. In Canada, the federal government is prorogued. In British Columbia, the government has decided there is no need to sit for the annual fall session.
What do all these things have in common? All the politicians involved continue to be paid. And we, the people, are helpless to make a difference.
Now, yes, the situation in the United States is worse. There the federal government is shut down, really shut down. What does that mean? In simple terms, the United States often has to pass a temporary spending bill to fund the government as it surpasses the debt ceiling — an arbitrary number which the government exceeds every year. Usually the Congress and Senate simply pass it and government continues to spend – and pay its bills.
Not this time. This time the Republican Party decided to take the Democrats and President Obama to the brink because it is the only way they can think of to protest Obama-care, the health care bill which every red-blooded Repub believes will lead Americans down the path to communism. Actually, the bill has been so gutted in attempts to make it palatable to the most left leaning of Republicans that it should be called Obama-air. As in there is nothing in it.
However, the shut down is no joke. It means food safety inspections and clinical drug trials are cancelled. Aviation inspectors are no longer inspecting. NASA is grounded – thankfully, they don’t have any manned spacecraft in orbit right now, although I can think of a few politicians, both American and Canadian, I wouldn’t mind sending into orbit.
Ironically, at least from a Republican point of view, those wishing to purchase firearms will not be able to have their permits processed. But hey, at least they stopped a national health care bill, which in no way offers national health care.
What is going on? Democracy is supposed to be a shining example to those nations still stuck in tyranny. So what do you say to someone from say, Iran, about how democracy works?
“You see, we elect these guys. It’s our choice. They represent us and we task them with carrying out our wishes and taking care of our basic needs such as infrastructure, unemployment insurance and more. Are you following? So we elect them and they go to the Legislature, House of Commons, Congress, Senate to do our work. Except when they decided they would rather not do our work because they would rather have a petty political quarrel, or avoid a petty political quarrel. Then they shut down, prorogue, just don’t sit. Got it? Sounds like a great system, doesn’t it?”
Actually it is a great system, or at least the best we mortals have managed to come up with. But in its current state, it is at least in need of repairs, if not completely broken. What can we do?
I offer one possible solution — pay attention. Pay attention to what these people are doing in our names. With voting numbers diving each election, the people we send to do our nations’ business are already in danger of being elected by the minority. The rest of the population just ignores politics and carries on. The hockey season is just starting; the new TV season has started; who cares?
We should care. We should be marching on the Legislature, the House of Commons and in the States, Congress, carrying signs that say, “Get the bums back to work!”
Am I over-simplifying? Yes. Politicians are at work in their ridings when the Legislature or House isn’t sitting. But nothing can actually get done without the government in session. And in the States, nothing can be done at all and at least 800,000 civil servants are temporarily out of work. And they are not being paid. But the politicians are.
So get back to work. On both sides of the border.
Carolyn Grant is the Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin