The Shutdown Damages Our Trust

Richard Soo and his girlfriend Barbara Arincorayan on top of Koko Head. Photo from Richard Soo

Whether for one day or two or five or 365, any shutdown of the federal government is damaging. It’s damaging to our economy, to our stability and most of all, to our trust in government.

How sad to see citizens rushing the commissaries or making contingency plans to pull their kids out of private schools or rejiggering their food shopping lists to make their suddenly shrunken budget stretch a little farther.

In the case of my friend Richard Soo, formerly of the Honolulu Fire Department, it meant being furloughed from his part-time job with the U.S. Census Bureau. Soo has a decent retirement package from his 27 years with HFD, so his situation is not as dire as thousands of full-time local federal employees. But he has to adjust like everybody else.

“I am the newest worker on my team, so, yes, it will affect everyone on the team. Most of all, my supervisor – she just moved into a new home. As for me, I am a single parent with two young adult sons still living at home and going to college, so any change in my income will directly affect my family.”

I hate to say it, but we have become helpless victims of our own government. More specifically, of a minority of GOP hardliners who are behaving like obstructionists because they can’t stand the thought of millions of Americans getting desperately needed health insurance.

And here is where I know I’ll get some angry emails telling me I’m not being “objective,” and that “both sides are to blame.”

No. I reject that false equivalency. The truth is the budget issue could have been resolved before the shutdown, if only House Speaker John Boehner had called for an up or down vote. It would have passed, averting a shutdown. Yet he did not.

The reason? The minority hardliners in his party wouldn’t allow it. If that’s not a case of a small group of zealots taking an entire country hostage, I don’t know what is.

The obsessive insistence of these folks to defund Obamacare as a requirement for funding the government made no sense at all, even to the more-moderate Republicans in Congress who called it out as a losing strategy.

And are the tactics having any impact at all on opinions of ordinary Americans?

Soo, who was one of HFD’s finest spokesmen during his career as a firefighter, says what’s happened “does not affect my views of our congressional team and just confirms my support of our president, who continues to clearly work for us … As for the Republicans’ representation in both the House and the Senate, my true feelings are not suitable for print, but it is a huge disappointment to see their continued alignment along party lines with complete disregard for the people who elected them.”

On the flip side, I have talked with others who are not making such distinctions and who blame everyone in office for the fiasco. That, I think, is the easy way out. It’s easier to blame everyone than to try to dig through the morass for the truth. It feeds the cynicism and apathy pervasive in our country. And that collective, reflexive shrug puts our country at even greater peril.

Of course, the issue at the heart of it all, the Affordable Care Act, marches on. It should say something to the naysayers that the federal exchange website,, had 4.7 million unique hits in the first 24 hours!

So many people logged on to the federal and various state exchange websites that many of those sites crashed.

Here in Hawaii, we’re not as desperate for health care insurance because we’ve had our own more-comprehensive law for years. But we can see what’s going on across the rest of the country. And what we see is that the sheer volume of demand is proof of a pent-up hunger for health coverage. No one can deny it.

The new law has glitches and flaws, and it has to be fixed, no disagreements there.

Fixed – not eliminated. We can’t let extremists – from either party – hijack our government. If this had been a small group of Democrats who’d shut us down, I would say the same thing. And I would be just as angry.