Northampton Press

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Editor's View

Thursday, October 10, 2013 by The Press in Opinion

Government shutdown hurts in many ways

Babies and spoiled brats.

Yep, I'm talking about the members of the United States Congress.

The recent government shutdown is an example of the abysmal failure of our elected officials to behave like responsible adults and work out their differences in a respectable and professional manner.

I am not going to mention political parties or the issue that Congress is fighting about. Both are irrelevant because, when you strip away the rhetoric of party politics, you can see the shutdown for what it is – grownups behaving badly because they suffer no consequences for their actions.

Think about it this way. If you and a bunch of your colleagues could not work out your differences and your actions harmed your employer or its customers, you'd probably be fired – and rightfully so.

Members of Congress are still getting their paychecks despite the fact that they're not doing their jobs effectively.

Don't forget you and I are the ones paying them to behave this way.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I recently purchased a cabin near Acadia National Park in Maine.

While it's true that the government shutdown is not affecting me personally here in Pennsylvania, it is affecting those who are my neighbors in Maine.

U.S. census data is currently unavailable – another consequence of the government shutdown – but I was able to find from other sources that Maine's largest city is Portland, with a population of about 66,000.

Allentown has a population of about 118,000, making it almost twice the size of Portland which, incidentally, is about three hours from the cabin. The closest town of any consequence is Ellsworth, with a population of just under 8,000.

In contrast to the Lehigh Valley, Maine's economy is built around independent, mom-and-pop businesses rather than big box stores, chains and franchises. Tourism is an important piece of the economy of the entire state but especially to areas near Acadia National Park.

Speaking of Acadia, I purchased a season pass but now I can't use it.

If I purchased a season pass from, say, Dorney Park, and Dorney closed for the season prematurely, customers like me would have every right to expect the park to issue refunds or other credits to compensate us for the admissions we paid for but were unable to redeem.

Such rules don't apply to our government, however.

While not everyone has a season pass to a national park, each and every one of us pays for the parks with our taxes and we have a right to use them.

What really makes me angry is our government officials call the parks "nonessential" in their attempts to dupe taxpayers into believing that closing them is OK.

In addition to stealing from us, our government is harming whole communities surrounding national parks with its irresponsible behavior.

"This closure occurs during prime fall tourist season ... which attracts hundreds of thousands of people each September and October," reads an article in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News about the effects of the shutdown on the town of Bar Harbor, near Acadia National Park.

The article goes on to say the park opening had been delayed in the spring for about a month because of another congressional stalemate over the federal budget.

That marks the second slap in the face this community has had to endure in an already short tourist season.

A lot of people think of "government employees" as people with cushy jobs who get to take off holidays such as Columbus Day, when the rest of us still have to work.

That may be true for some, but not all. The Jordan Pond House restaurant, located near Acadia National Park, employs about 200 seasonal workers. The Jordan Pond House is run by the Acadia Corporation under contract with the park service and, therefore, closed Oct. 1 because of the government shutdown.

The restaurant was scheduled to close for the season Oct. 27. I don't know if the government shutdown will be over before Oct. 27 or whether the Jordan Pond House would open again this season if it did. Regardless, full-time and seasonal employees have found themselves suddenly without jobs.

"Candidates who are able to stay for our entire season (through mid to late October) will be given preference when being considered for a position," says a section on employment on the Jordan Pond House web page. "All employees are required to sign an employment agreement with an agreed starting and completion date."

Many of the people the Pond House hires are college students and a number of them are foreign. Those coming from other countries can often more easily commit to the April-October season than those who finish a semester in May and then must return to school in August.

We have people coming from all over the country and even the world to work in Acadia. We require them to commit to an end date but, instead of honoring our end of the bargain, we have a tantrum and yank their jobs out from under them.

The affects on the national parks and the surrounding communities represent only a small part of the harm our government has inflicted on its citizens.

What an embarrassment.

Johanna S. Billings


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