Commentary: Everyone loses in government shutdown

The shutdown of the federal government has now concluded after a third week. Residents of Connecticut, like those all over the country, felt its effects.

While many critical parts of the federal government remained open and fully operational amid the shutdown, there was a notable impact on the lives of many Americans.

The national Republican and Democratic parties had each chosen to dig in their heels and the inability to compromise and negotiate their way out of the political fog they have created will go down in history as a disgrace to leaders of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the president.

Another deadline is approaching

The end to the shutdown may be short-lived, as the measure passed to reopen the federal government only does so until Jan. 15, 2014. In essence, we may be right back where we started in just a few months.

Here in Connecticut the state government works in conjunction with federal government and relies on the funding of the federal government for healthcare, unemployment compensation, social services, services to the disabled, public health and many other programs.

While some of this funding continues to be delivered under a shutdown, some of it does not. Another extended government shutdown would further impact and inconvenience Connecticut residents.

Vital programs impacted

This past shutdown has severely cut funding for many vital programs such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was forced to furlough over 70% of its workforce.

These cuts prevented the NIH from continuing some of its experimental trials, including some for children with rare forms of cancer.

The fact that anyone, especially a child, could be turned away from potentially life-saving treatment because of an argument among Washington legislators is saddening.

The people who are were punished the most severely by this recent failure of Congress and President Barack Obama to agree on funding are normal Americans like these children and the hard-working employees at companies like Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky, where each company planned to furlough 2,000 workers because of the shutdown.

And they may face the same trials again soon.

Plenty of blame to go around

Both sides share the blame here. The Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) remains extremely unpopular, and there are a significant number of questions unanswered about its implementation, and the collateral impact of its enactment.

But the battle has already been waged in Congress, in the field of electoral politics, and even at the Supreme Court. Bringing the federal government to a screeching halt didn’t help, and another one a few months down the road won’t help either.

Conversely, Republicans had offered spending measures that would have fully funded the government as well as Obamacare, requiring only that members of Congress and the president be required to participate like all other members — reversing their current exemption.

Democratic leaders were unwilling to even negotiate on this point, making it appear that they would rather shut down the government than live under their own healthcare policy.

A battle of egos in Washington

The people of Connecticut and the people of the United States should not be collateral damage in a battle of egos in Washington. The federal government is in place to serve and protect the people, not to harm them in a petty struggle for power.

Over the course of the crisis, there were polling numbers released daily detailing who the American public blames more for the shutdown and who is “winning.” There are no winners in this battle for power over the federal government, only losers.

A Rasmussen poll released Oct. 16th showed only 13% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction — a telling five-year low.

With the American people stuck in the crossfire of this latest round of poor Washington decision-making, many of us are left asking, “Are there any leaders left?”

Republican state Rep. Jason Perillo of Shelton represents the 113th District, which includes most of Shelton.