Opening government won’t happen with closed minds

It’s easy for all of us to gripe about our jobs from time to time, but on the bright side, most of our jobs aren’t put immediately on hold as a result of political bickering.

The Great Wall of ‘Murica, a figurative wall that has been the subject of nervous whispers and occasional fist-pounding for almost three years, has now suddenly turned into a symbol of how fractured and partisan American politics. Because there was no funding to build a physical wall between the United States and Mexico, much of the federal government has been shut down for three weeks now.

More than 800,000 federal employees who would normally have seen a paycheck Friday only saw the continued tirades on both sides of the aisle from politicians who are not seeing their own pay held in abeyance and thus don’t have to worry about making rent and utility payments, cutting back on groceries or paying for little Johnny’s glasses. The only time they truly fear the possibility their jobs are in jeopardy is the first Tuesday in November.

Meanwhile, many of these employees are sitting at home, wondering when they’ll be able to work again and fearing their families might suffer because of the philosophy of a barrier. Since the shutdown started just before Christmas, some are probably wondering if they should have spent so much on presents.

Some of the affected employees are currently working without pay, which seems like it should be illegal. Didn’t we go to war once because part of the country decided to make people of a certain skin color work long hours for no pay? Don’t we go to jail if we don’t pay for services rendered?

There have been days upon days of closed-door discussions between Republicans and Democrats at the White House with both sides saying the needle of progress hasn’t moved in either direction, and it leads me to wonder if we’re suddenly in a reenactment of “The Lord of the Flies,” where there are no adults, and the kids are ready to kill each other over something trivial. (If you have the nickname Piggy, you should probably hotfoot it to higher ground.)

We’ve got our Republican president insisting on $5.6 billion — or possibly $5.7 billion, as the number keeps changing — for a wall. We’ve got the Democratic leaders from the House and Senate insisting there’s plenty of money available for border security, just not for a wall, and they’re not going to pay for a wall. No way, no how. On Tuesday, they broke into prime time with the same tired rhetoric of why a wall should or should not be built.

A meeting on Wednesday between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer ended with Trump walking out when Pelosi said she would not entertain the possibility of a wall. It doesn’t seem like either party is willing to see the big picture.

Here’s the confounding issue: Border security is an issue managed by the Department of Homeland Security. So why is it so vital to also close the Agriculture, Justice, State and Treasury Departments, our national parks and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other things?

What good does the shutdown do either side? It’s certainly not doing our farmers any good. After getting gut-punched by tariffs in the trade war, the application process for relief funds is on hold because the Farm Service Agency, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, has been closed since Dec. 28.

It’s time to end the shutdown. The shutdown should never have taken place. Neither political party has anything to be proud of, and neither is going to win this fright. Both sides need to return to the table with no sacred cows, and they need to leave the fractured party dogma at home. They need to come up with a way to reopen the government. Period. Border security is not an issue worth destroying our country over.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for the Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com.