Friday Shutdown Reader—Yes, It's Still Going On

"In essence, the shutdown has created a hiring freeze in [an entire] industry."

From a reader in California:

I have a black sheep brother on food stamps and social security disability in Arizona. The welfare offices in Arizona, he reports, are jam-packed. Old ladies in wheelchairs are being told no food stamps for them.

That's predictable, I guess. This surprised me, although it made sense in retrospect: when I tried to send my brother some money over Western Union online, the payment couldn't be processed. I waited more than half an hour for customer service. They processed my order, but told me that the website keeps crashing because so many people are in the same boat as my brother, and Western Union is overwhelmed.

From a reader hoping for a career in aviation:

I have recently graduated with a degree in the aviation field. Starting a few weeks ago, when the threat of a shutdown was becoming more and more real, I noticed a decided downturn in new job postings. The ones I have applied for, there have been significant delays in processing. Today I called one HR department as one should do, and was informed of the general reason for this; The only jobs I qualify for are jobs requiring ramp clearance to access the secure areas of the airport. As I'm sure you know, obtaining this clearance involves a federal-level background check. With the shutdown, the E-Verify system is completely offline.

This seemingly minor facet is going to shut down all hiring of new employees in the aviation industry. Pilots, mechanics, even clerical work requires this clearance. In essence, the shutdown has created a hiring freeze in the industry. This is just my experience, but its causing me to contemplate returning to school for an advanced degree, especially in the event of a prolonged shutdown.

From a reader in Missouri:

Just wanted to speak as one of possibly one of the largest groups of people who are not employed by the federal government but will be hurt by the shutdown: those millions of us who have infants or small children (under age five) and receive WIC benefits.  

In a coincidental inverse of Romney's "47 percent" remarks, 53 percent of infants born in the U.S. are on WIC, per Wikipedia (their citation points to the USDA's WIC website, but it currently reads "Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available").  And my wife and I count on WIC vouchers to make our tight grocery budget stretch a little further.  

If the shutdown is not resolved soon, word is that WIC here in Missouri only has enough funding to last "a few more weeks".  Not good.

From a reader in Asia:

Currently traveling in Seoul and twice I have been embarrassed by the shutdown:

1) While traveling to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) yesterday the tour bus drove past the National Assembly of Korea (equivalent to our Capitol), without missing a beat, after pointing out the building, the tour guide went on to add "it is working, unlike the Congress in US. "

2) I am also meeting up, on this trip, with college friends who are visiting from Australia. I lost many arguments of our government action during the Bush years, and just when I thought I was in the clear to make fun of their recent election and their newly elected Prime Minister, again I had a loss of words to explain the shutdown.

Like it or not, the world watches what we do, or say. That's expected of a global leader, unfortunately, we are not acting very leader-ly.

And finally for now, from a reader (and longtime journalist) who has a constructive suggestion:

When I was in college and sporadically involved in campus politics, my closest friend of that era came up with this piece of deathless political wisdom: "Beware of those who burn with a pure gemlike flame."... Over the more than 50 years since then I have found that an unfailingly valuable guide to sound political judgments.... 

Here's the fantasy: I see the Republicans are going into paroxysms of self-righteous fury because they want the Democrats to negotiate with them. My solution: the Senate should pass a continuing budget resolution and attach the immigration bill they've already passed (with a good many Republican votes, by the way) and send it over to the House. That would be the exact counterpart to the House Republicans' tactic: take a piece of legislation that you can't get the votes to pass and tie it to an unrelated action that has to be taken to avoid serious economic damage.

Then, Harry Reid can say: OK, Republicans, you want to negotiate? Fine. We'll drop our immigration rider, you drop your various demands, and we'll pass the bill. Voila, a negotiated compromise, just what you're asking for, with an equal and opposite concession from each side. 

It looks as if this might be over soon. What a waste it has been.  

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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