Whew. I survived the federal shutdown by the skin of my teeth.
My federal sources weren’t available, except for one nice lady who talked to me from her home. Most of my favorite federal websites were down, though, which caused untold disruption in my routine. That hour I spent trying to find data that I might need within the next month played havoc on my sense of well-being.
Still, I managed to limp along, pulling it all together from my regular salary, my job being there, my car working, food and gas in good supply.
It was 16 days of touch-and-go. I didn’t know from day-to-day whether USDA Rural Development grants would be available in two years. I couldn’t satisfy my curiosity about our balance of trade or see if there were updates on our steel importing policies. I couldn’t even determine the price of tea in China.
Since not all federal agencies were down, I found I could have determined lake levels at Conchas Lake any time and had no trouble finding FBI crime statistics, what there were of them, for Quay County. I clung to these shreds of federal presence like a lifeline.
Probably what I missed the most, however, was that nobody was there to collect the vital details that the federal government reports to us.
I missed finding out how many families of four who make between $40,000 and $50,000 per year are headed by left-handed Latvian-Americans between 34 and 50 years of age. I missed learning how many females with 10-24 college credits received wrist sprains from accidents in the home involving stepladders six feet in height or less.
How did we survive this?
You can look at how we functioned during the shutdown in two ways.
A conservative is likely to say, “See, we don’t need the feds anyway.”
A progressive would say, “See, the government works well enough to keep us going even if it goes away for a while.”
When the government came back to work, the questions were still the same: “Should the government be a backstop against desperation or just buy weapons and train soldiers? Does the government spend too much or not enough, or both? Should public-private partnerships be encouraged for any area but defense?”
And health care — the issue that brought it all down for 16 days — should it be Obamacare, Ryan-Boehner-care or I-don’t-care?
It’s all back as if there were no interruption. So, what was the point?
In my humble opinion, the question now should be where in the wide middle will we all meet?
Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org