In 2017, 45,000 people visited the Truman Home in Independence. Each year, three times that number visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library a few blocks to the north.
No one is visiting either one today and hasn’t since before Christmas, thanks to the shutdown of much of the federal government.
In the wider scheme of things, these are not large federal operations. They are nonetheless both national treasures, and they are locally important, not least for the direct and indirect paychecks they account for. Tourists fill hotels, restaurants and shops.
Let’s widen the lens a little. Quick – name the metro area’s largest employer. It’s not Cerner, Burns & McDonnell or Garmin. It’s not Ford, GM, Sprint, Hallmark or DST. It’s not any of the hospital groups or UMKC or area school districts. It’s the federal government, with more than 18,000 jobs. Many of those people are on furlough and missed a paycheck this week.
It’s not just that this shutdown is beginning to take a toll on real people’s lives and on how and where they spend their money. It’s that this shutdown is over a ridiculous and entirely avoidable fight in Washington.
This president made a poorly advised promise – the wall – that is probably not even deliverable in any real sense. He could not get it done when his party had control of Congress, and now the other party has the House. He’s lost ground, but he’s also painted himself into a corner. So here we are. It’s pointless.
The shutdown’s effects are not entirely arbitrary but not exactly logical either. Of the 800,000 federal employees affected, roughly half are deemed essential – we do want TSA screeners at the airport – so they work and wait to get paid later. The rest sit at home, also assuming they’ll be paid in the sweet by and by as has been the case before. All 800,000 have to figure what to do about groceries and car payments right now.
Meanwhile, the folks at the White House are getting paid. Same for Congress. (A few in Congress are donating their pay until this is resolved, something that’s becoming a custom.)
Maybe if those in charge felt the sting of their decisions, perspectives might shift a bit. A moment of clarity might lead to a moment of common sense, maybe even compromise.