To Solve The Shutdown – Suspend Social Security [POLL]
I know. It’s an insane suggestion, and it would never happen. Social Security payments to millions of Americans would cause an uproar heard from coast to coast.
Could you imagine how life would be for those depending on their monthly check?
Not able to pay bills. Not able to get the meds they live on.
The outcry would become deafening – which is probably what we need to solve the impasse in Washington, given that neither side is giving in.
Yet, peoples’ lives are still being affected – just not the ones with the squeakier wheels.
About half of the 4,800- base workers at the Picatinny arsenal are home today as are hundreds from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Not to mention the surrounding businesses that depend on those workers showing up. Places like luncheonettes, gas stations, and the like.
Tom Harper sees the difference each morning.
Outside his Liberty gas station in Wrightstown, the traffic is usually bumper to bumper between 6:45 and 7:45 as federal civilian workers report to work, then wait in a long line that stretches from the nearby gate of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Since the government shutdown and massive furloughs, the number of cars "has been cut back 60 to 70 percent," said Harper, who is also the town's mayor. "If the cars aren't going by, people aren't stopping in for gas.
"They're not stopping at other gas stations - or at restaurants, cleaners, and repair shops," he said. "They're sitting at home because they can't afford to do anything."
Throughout this small Burlington County town, the story was the same Wednesday. Business owners are feeling the financial impact of the shutdown, which began the day before, and want it to end before it cuts any deeper into their bottom line.
Base officials did not say Wednesday just how many of the 6,700 civilian workers for the Department of Defense there were affected by furloughs. Tens of thousands of military personnel, who are not subject to furlough, live and work at the vast facility.
Thousands of soldiers, their families, and veterans were especially disappointed by the closing of the base commissary, which offers groceries at steep discounts.
Before its doors closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, hundreds of people showed up to make last-minute purchases and take advantage of a big sale on perishable items such as milk and bread.
On the base's Facebook page, regular customers of the commissary were unhappy.
"Frustrating!" wrote one. "I understand there are other places to shop besides on base. The problem is those places are further to drive (costing extra gas), and the prices are higher (hurting our already-tight budget)."
Another wrote: "The commissary is MUCH cheaper than Acme, and for people who have a big family, that could be a huge difference. . . . They should give all the perishables to all the workers who are out of work right now."
The commissary bargains will be missed by many. "It does make a huge difference to the younger families who don't have multiple stripes on their shoulders, but have a family to support or families with more than one kid," said another customer. "However, the way I see it is, yes, this sucks, but it could be way worse."
Just outside the Wrightstown gate at Tom Harper's gas station, attendant George Bereznak wasn't making as many runs to the pumps Wednesday as he normally does. "All the [base] civilian employees are gone," he said. "It's got to affect business. It affects everybody."
Harper hopes the standoff in Washington is over soon.
"You'd think the federal government could get one thing right," the mayor said. "They're elected officials. They know what they've got to do.
"As the mayor of a town, I have to pass a budget on time, or the state has certain sanctions it will put against me," he said. "Who puts sanctions against the federal government?"
Harper said as elected representatives, "they are still getting paid, still getting benefits, but the average guy is not.
"That's the guy who works 40 hours a week, who tries to put something away," he said. "Now, they're messing with car payments and mortgages. It's backroom politics."
This is a scenario being played out in scores of towns across America. Those ancillary folks we don’t even think about whose livelihoods are affected by the shutdown.
But imagine for a minute, insane as it may sound, if those on Social Security and the myriad of federally funded programs were to not receive benefits.
Or I might even add, suspending Postal Services as well.
Millions of Americans not getting their mail on time. Thousands of postal workers not knowing when the next paycheck would be coming.
Political suicide for sure. But it would have more of an effect on undoing the logjam currently playing out in Washington faster than the effect of having closed the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty.