Shutdown display of petty politics


Greg Monahan is a guest columnist and journalism graduate student. Reach him at

I saw a statistic the other day that people’s opinion of the U.S. Congress is at its lowest point in recorded history. Five percent approve of the job they’re doing, according to an Associated Press-GfK survey released in early October.

That means out of a classroom of 20 people, 19 people say they can’t stand them, and one says they’re doing alright.

That seems high.

What is wrong with the one person who likes them? Did they not understand the question? Did they press the wrong button? I don’t get it.

Look, I am admittedly not an expert in politics. I don’t even like politics; I used to, but I don’t anymore. That was why I was a political science minor in undergrad for all of one semester until I realized the system is so brutally inept that I’d have the same chance to change the world if I had a career in data entry as if I ran for office.

But I do know that what our government just pulled off was a farce. I can’t say either way if the Affordable Care Act will be successful, but isn’t it sort of, I don’t know, completely insane to shut down the government of the most powerful nation in the world because a law went into effect? I promise that would be a lot more damaging to the country than making healthcare available to millions of previously uninsured Americans.

Even students here were immediately and directly affected. I have personally heard stories of both students unable to research and professors unable to complete lectures because they could not access government websites and information. It’s crazy to think you might not be able to finish an assignment because politicians can’t agree on healthcare reform, but that was the case for hundreds of people here in East Lansing.

I’m not trying to make this an issue about nationwide health care. I don’t have time to read the hate mail I’d receive. The issue is how it is humanly possible for a congress that we elect to get approval from a whopping 5 percent of the very people that put them into office. But we’ve discovered that one good way to do that is to cause a screeching halt to the government while still collecting a paycheck while it’s all closed.

Supporters and detractors of the Affordable Care Act don’t agree on much, and that’s fine, but I’d hope that both sides could agree that no matter what you think of it, fighting over it isn’t quite worth not having an active federal government.

The shutdown was the most idiotic move our government has pulled since that one time we said we were invading a country to rid a ruthless dictator of weapons of mass destruction, but then it turned out those weapons were completely imaginary and we just wanted to…wait, what did we get out of that? Anyway, good one, guys.

There are children who couldn’t get cancer treatment because researchers at the National Institutes of Health were unable to work. I know that’s a bit of a maudlin card to play, but it is also a fact. These are real people who live in this country with families and lives that couldn’t get the care they needed because a stick was wedged into the spokes of our government.

On a more local scale, hundreds of Michigan workers were furloughed.

This is all because a vocal minority — OK, I guess I’ll just say it: mostly Tea Party members — didn’t agree with healthcare legislation, and they were able to shut down the government. I can’t imagine a more childish response from a group of grown men and women. If you can boil down an entire section of the government to an everyday interaction, that would be like if I went on a hunger strike because my brother got the last piece of pizza.

What congress did was just plain stupid. And irresponsible. How on earth do we elect some of these people?

I don’t have an answer for that, but what can be done is to prevent people who will make this happen again in the future from gaining office. For example, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is retiring next year, and we’re going to need a replacement.

I wouldn’t want to tell anyone how to vote, but I would strongly advise looking up candidates records on issues that could determine whether or not we’ll still have a government if there’s a disagreement. After all, it’s our state representatives and senators who are part of making sure this never happens again.

And this isn’t a viewpoint coming from a hardline redistribution-of-wealth-for-everyone liberal. I think both sides of the political spectrum are pretty useless, though I will admit I tend to think Democrats are slightly less useless. That’s my ringing endorsement.

But it can’t go on like this. The government can’t be shut down because one side didn’t get their way. Because if this all keeps up, Congress’ approval rating will somehow find a way to go even lower than five percent.

Read more students’ opinions on the government shutdown here.

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