Contrary to what lawmakers would have Americans believe, the government shutdown is not about Washington. The chaos is being felt in every community across the nation, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been ordered to stay home. There were faint signs of a thaw Thursday in Washington, as House Republicans proposed raising the debt ceiling for a few weeks in exchange for negotiations over spending cuts. But that is too little, and it does not end the government shutdown that is becoming more frustrating by the day. Here's a snapshot:
• Furloughs severely hit the Department of Veterans Affairs' effort to eliminate a backlog of more than 400,000 claims. These veterans served their country and deserve a timely response to their needs. The agency has also suspended the processing of claims appeals, leaving veterans and their families in the lurch and almost guaranteeing a new backlog when things return to normal.
• A conference in Tampa of security professionals was put off this week, taking $5 million from the local economy and costing Tampa city taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost rent for the convention center and other revenues. The move means that 4,000 conferees will not be in the Tampa Bay region for several days spending their money in area restaurants and shops.
• The shutdown has kept more than 7 million people out of American's national parks, with an estimated $750 million lost in visitor spending. At Everglades National Park in South Florida, the impact includes 25,000 lost visitors and an estimated loss in revenue of $4 million. This is the same watershed that the state and federal governments are spending billions of tax dollars to improve.
The shutdown has brought the country to a grinding halt in many other ways. Employers cannot access the government's E-Verify system to assure they are hiring only legal residents. The nation's research centers cannot process grants for public health projects. Nonprofits that serve the poor and the homeless are burning through their cash to ensure that families are not without shelter or other basics. Some $100 million in military contracts are frozen in the Tampa Bay region alone.
The stalemate in Washington is leaving a mess on every Main Street in America. Partisan politics has real-life consequences, and it is time to end this manufactured crisis.