THE BLOG

Don't Call It a 'Shutdown'

10/07/2013 10:02 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • C. Robert Gibson Independent journalist published in Guardian, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, NPR, and other publications

As a current resident of Wisconsin, I'm not in California very much. I've wanted to see Yosemite National Park ever since my parents went there a few years ago and showed me some of the breathtaking photos they took of the Sequoias and the mountains. Ironically, I'm finally in California for an entire week, staying just a few hours from Yosemite, and now I can't legally go inside because some knuckle-dragging ideologues who get paid with my tax dollars and get free government healthcare for life don't want poor people to have better access to private health insurance.

But this isn't really about Obamacare or the debt ceiling -- that's just more dog-wagging. This is simply another shot fired across the bow from the GOP's sinking ship in the class war they're waging on America's most vulnerable. So let's stop calling this a government "shutdown." Everybody knows that's a misnomer. If you like, call it a government amputation, or a dry run of the minimal state, or escalated class warfare. All of those are accurate descriptions. But the U.S. government is, by no means, shut down.

If there were a "shutdown," there would be no more monitoring of our calls/emails/texts/social media by the NSA and other alphabet agencies. There would be no more dead children labeled as "collateral damage" on drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. There would be an end to the billions in free handouts for the big banks and the big oil and gas companies. There would be no more scumbag congressmen and congresswomen still getting paid six figures, with more paid time off than they know what to do with, getting raises while kids on Head Start get sequestered, and having guaranteed pensions while actively supporting the efforts of their campaign donors to bust the unions of workers who have pensions that amount to just a fraction of what Congress gets. If the government were actually shut down, these members of Congress would be locked in their offices and cowering under their desks, instead of grandstanding in front of media cameras next to the memorials they closed.

What they did shut down was the jobs of 800,000 federal employees. Cops in D.C. are working without pay even as they respond to someone attempting to drive her way into the White House and a guy who self-immolated on the National Mall (he recently died from his injuries). They shut down food assistance for hungry moms and their kids. They shut down food inspection, so biotech companies and slaughterhouses can poison our food with impunity. They shut down EPA inspectors and regulators at oil drilling sites, so the polluters can keep making big bucks without having to worry about consequences for ruining the Earth. They've shut down the National Institutes of Health, so kids with cancer can't get treated. And they've shut down hospitals and nutrition assistance in indigenous communities. They've shut down NOAA and FEMA, making it harder for these agencies to respond to the people directly affected by Tropical Storm Karen. But they never gave a fuck about those people and those programs in the first place, and as long as they keep getting paid and not being thrown out of office or chased out of the capitol by pissed-off constituents screaming for their heads, they'll continue to give zero fucks.

Scum-of-the-Earth congressmen like Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Renee Elmers (R-N.C.) have shown us that there really is no human being underneath their expensive suits, flag lapel pins, and meticulously-manicured appearances. The same people who voted to furlough 800,000 federal employees are telling them all to eat cake. This video of Rep. Neugebauer shows him haranguing a poor park ranger standing guard at the World War II memorial, telling her she should be "ashamed" for doing her job at the memorial he closed with his own vote. Rep. Terry said he shouldn't have to give up any paychecks, because he wants to keep his "nice house." Rep. Ellmers famously said, "The thing of it is, I need my paycheck. That's the bottom line." To Ellmers' credit, she quickly asked to have her pay withheld after US Uncut made her famous to our weekly audience of 1.6 million pissed-off Americans. But these are just three members of Congress. And the Democrats are just as bad.

Harry Reid and the Senate's Democratic majority already gave up when, in their rush to cave to the GOP's every demand, they agreed to fund the government at almost RYAN BUDGET levels of $986 billion. The GOP is still kicking and screaming over Obamacare, but they've already moved the goalposts far to the right on the negotiating table. Even if they agree to a "clean bill" to fund the government, they'll have already won, since the Senate has signed off on wholesale austerity. Anyone who blames Republicans for their callous intransigence without lambasting the Democrats for being a spineless, worthless, pitiful bunch of buffoons who suck at negotiating is simply being dishonest.

If they haven't shut down oil drilling and fracking sites, and if there are no federal regulators to stop we the people from shutting those operations down ourselves, why haven't we already? Accountability for these high crimes cannot wait until November of 2014. Each day we aren't attempting to storm the Capitol is another day we tell our corrupt government to keep doing what they're doing, we don't mind. I, for one, will be part of Anonymous' Million Mask March on November 5th, 2013, and will be meeting tens of thousands of others at the Washington Monument who have had enough and are ready to take direct, militant, nonviolent action. In times of universal corruption and great distress, revolution has now become our civic duty.

(This story originally appeared on Reader Supported News)

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