My father handed me the check written on the Bank of Cottonwood. It was made out to me in the amount of $750 and I deposited it in my newly opened account at Auburn Bank. I chose that bank because it had the first ATM I had ever seen in my life. I made many $10 withdrawals over the next few years.
That $750 check from my father was to pay for my room, board, tuition, and anything else that I thought I had to have for my first quarter at Auburn. That was the revenue part of my budget. If I spent more than that, then I was on my own. $750 for each quarter for as long as I kept my grades up.
After my Sophomore year, I found the courage to tell him I needed a little more. After all, even 51 years ago there was a bit of inflation. We agreed on $1,000 each quarter. If I spent it all frivolously, that would be on me. I would have dug ditches and slopped pigs before I would have told my father that I had wasted his hard-earned money.
I graduated with honors, got married, and we were on our way to having our first child when our government had its first shutdown. Since then, there have been 13 more closures of the government due to funding. There were eight government shutdowns during President Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The longest lasted for three days.
Over the next six years, the country’s government shut down three times. We then had a long period of mutual responsibility lasting until 2013. Since then, shutdowns have become more common, the threat of them even more common than that.
Forget that we have not had a balanced budget in a generation, since 2001 to be exact. Both parties have allowed our budget to expand at an ever-increasing pace until the budget process itself has been weaponized. Thanks to gerrymandered districts on both sides of the aisle, the House of Representatives has become answerable to almost no one.
What a disappointment to anyone who is a student of civics. Then again, we do not really teach civics much anymore, do we?
The shutdown of the government will be just three or four days away from the printing of this article. Some in Congress will delight in the shutdown as a way to advance their own narrow goals. Others are reading the polls hoping it will damage Democrats more or Republicans more.
In the meantime, millions of Americans will quickly begin to suffer the consequences of Congress refusing to act on their responsibilities. Almost four million federal workers will cease to be paid. The approval of passport applications, already slow, will come to a halt. WIC payments will stop within days. National parks will close.
The appearance of our country as the leader of the free world will take another hit as allies and foes alike will marvel at the inability of our country to govern itself in a responsible way. Yet, the United States Congress will continue to be paid, while the country suffers.
I wonder how many Congressmen and Senators had to make it through college on $750 per quarter. I am not poor-mouthing my own situation. Many of my friends worked their way through school while I suffered for nothing.
The American public is much like my Dad. Hard-working and trying to make a better life for their children. My Dad only asked that I do my job when I went to college. Study hard and make him proud.
Is it too much to ask the same of those we elect to serve us in Congress? Fiscal brinksmanship is a poor tactic for policy making. There is no excuse for a government shutdown that affects millions of people, damages our economy, and puts our country at risk. Figure out a way to do your job or come home. That’s what my Dad would have said.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com