Editorial: Shutdown shows sad dysfunction
Since the partial federal government shutdown got underway Saturday, four Pearl Harbor nonprofits have been footing the bill — now about $14,000 a day — to keep the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center staffed and open to the public.
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Since the partial federal government shutdown got underway Saturday, four Pearl Harbor nonprofits have been footing the bill — now about $14,000 a day — to keep the USS Arizona
Memorial visitor center staffed and open to the public.
They’re to be commended for pinch-hitting, especially since we’re now amid one of the busiest visitation times of the year at the site — one of Hawaii’s top tourist attractions.
Across the nation, some state governments and other groups are paying for various national parks to remain open. Coming to the rescue of the National Park Service at the Arizona Memorial are Pacific Historic Parks, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
On Thursday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority agreed to pitch in $126,000 in emergency funding to keep the Arizona Memorial visitor center staffed, starting Saturday. That’s encouraging.
What’s discouraging, though, is that the shuttering of the Arizona Memorial — and continued bare-bones operations at other big-draw tourist sites, such as Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes national parks — are tethered to the latest round of Washington, D.C., dysfunction.
The shutdown, which took hold after congressional Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump’s demands for a $5 billion down payment of sorts to erect a wall at the U.S-Mexico border, shortchanges the American people.
As usual, federal employees are either furloughed or — if deemed essential — now working without pay. It’s a sure bet that all employees will be awarded back pay when the government reopens, so an estimated 350,000 furloughed employees are essentially being forced to take a taxpayer-funded vacation.
Still, many of the roughly 800,000 affected federal employees are scrambling to cover monthly expenses along with holiday-related bills. No one wins in these politics-fueled shutdowns. This one marks the third for 2018. And it will likely become the second-longest of the decade when Congress convenes next week.
With the Department of Defense previously funded through fiscal 2019, Hawaii’s vast DOD workforce is spared shutdown pain. The Coast Guard is the only arm of the military affected because it’s funded through the Department of Homeland Security. Nationwide, roughly 44,000 Coast Guard employees are tagged as essential, with another 6,000 furloughed.
For the short term — through this quiet week before New Year’s festivities — the impulse is to muddle through. It’s worrisome, though, that if the shutdown lingers into late January, federal funding for food stamps recipients, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and some assistance for food banks, could dry up.
Trump has called the wall — his signature campaign promise — a crime and safety matter. Congressional Democrats have countered with proposed funding of up to $1.6 billion for border security upgrades. That’s the more sensible course for addressing immigration-related concerns.
Rather than allocating billions for bricks and mortar — or even “steel slats,” as Trump has recently suggested — a more effective focus would fold in technology, such as possible drone surveillance, and other modern and humane strategies. Expressing frustration about the ongoing political wrangling, Hawaii’s Sen. Mazie Hirono rightly called the vision a “vanity wall.”
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa added: “Ironically, by shutting down the government, (Trump) is ensuring that nearly 107,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and Transportation Security Administration workers will be forced to defend our borders with the added stress of an immediate loss in pay.” That’s an upshot of dysfunction.
For the sake of adrift federal employees and the now-underscored importance of a smoothly functioning federal government to maintain stability, let’s hope that the deadlock breaks next week, when Congress starts its 116th session.