Posted by: shannynmoore | October 5, 2013

We’re stuck in the middle of a political hostage crisis

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

October 5, 2013 

I had quite a dream this week. In it, I was trying to connect Quantitative Easing to the Higgs boson. All night (it seemed) my brain was bouncing between economics and physics, certain that the connection would save the economy and solve climate change.

I felt rested.

My dream made more sense than my waking brain trying to figure out the end game of the hostage crisis in D.C.

In 2008, when the national economy collapsed, Alaska escaped a lot of the pain suffered by other states. Why? Several reasons.

For one, we had learned the lessons of our mid-’80s crash, when many people dropped off the keys to their homes at the bank on their way out of state.

For another, our economy was stabilized by a sizable and well paid federal government work force. We have the second most federal employees per capita in the country, more in absolute numbers than the oil industry here.

In 2010, an economist who has studied Alaska for decades said, “Government jobs tend not to have the volatility of other sectors of the economy.”

At least that used to be true.

Just this week we saw the bipartisan cheering from our delegation at the decision to keep F-16s at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks. Why? Because the loss of those federal dollars would have been a big blow to the economy of Interior Alaska.

Of course, the hypocrisy of Alaska Republicans was unavoidably on full display. Don Young, Lisa Murkowski, Sean Parnell and a long list of others argued that this was a fight to protect national security, but we all know that it was first and foremost an effort to make sure that tax dollars from Californians and New Yorkers kept flowing into the pockets of Alaskans.

You can convince me otherwise on the day that any major Alaska office-holder agrees it’s a good idea to shut down a big federal installation anywhere in the state.

That’s why the false narrative parroted by the right wing flies in the face of evidence: “Government doesn’t create jobs.”

That’s just nonsense.

There were 800,000 jobs uncreated by Congress this week, plenty of them here in Alaska.

All week, instead of governing, the Republicans chased photo ops. They hustled over to the World War II memorial to kiss a veteran (yes, Michele Bachmann did that). It was appalling to see the veterans, who deserve total respect, used as stage props.

Another congressman scolded a low-level park service worker — on camera, of course — for doing her job. The head of the Republican Party, the party that forced the closure of the monument in the first place, said the party would pay to open it.

Wonder if that’s their plan for the Veteran’s Administration? Even the Republican Party doesn’t have an army of fat cats big enough to cover that check.

Of course, all our troubles are Obama’s fault. Why? Because he hasn’t remade himself as President Mitt Romney.

We also watched the mind-boggling irony of check-collecting House members giving a standing ovation to the unpaid Capitol police officers protecting them from danger. Republican senators and congressmen who voted to force the furloughs offered “thoughts and prayers,” possibly the most worthless currency a government worker could ever hope to see.

This kind of behavior gives political theater a bad name.

Even the Senate chaplain has had enough. He prayed: “Save us from the madness. Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

The tea party “patriots” are giving democracy a black eye around the world. If we can’t govern ourselves, what hope is there for people who have never even had a chance to try?

I hear from many deployed soldiers, far from home, who listen to podcasts. This week I heard from one who had served with a soldier who was buried this week. His fiance wore a white dress to the funeral. His family, friends and fellow soldiers are devastated. The obituary of Staff Sgt. Liam Nevins said he was 32. He died in Afghanistan.

It’s disgusting that we hardly report on the war anymore. Is it over? Did we win? If you watch Fox News, you’ll hear more about the “War on Christmas.” (Apparently Alaska’s best known grifter, Sarah Palin, is writing a book to cash in on that war.)

Maybe we should all remember that there are real people, right this minute, at the direction of our much-maligned government, fighting real enemies and trying not to get killed or maimed. At the same time, there are bipartisan ads running that ask for “a cease-fire” in Washington. Imagine watching that ad if your loved one were in real danger in an actual war zone halfway around the world.

People describe what’s happening as a government shutdown or political gridlock. To me it seems more like an entire country caught in the Turnagain Arm mud. We’re stuck fast, and the tide is coming. If we don’t choose to help one another, we may just end up drowning.


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