Time for government to get job done on budget

Published 11:32 am Saturday, April 9, 2011

The possibility of a government shutdown, which may have already taken place by the time this issue of The Tidewater News goes to press, is absolutely ridiculous, and the people should be outraged.

It’s almost inconceivable that the president and members of Congress would actually lock the doors of government because they can’t get along well enough to do the job they were hired to do.

Imagine if, one day, McDonalds’s locked the doors because the guy who’s cooking the fries didn’t agree with the guy who’s pouring the Cokes on how many pickles the guy at the grill is putting on the cheeseburgers. It’s absurd to even consider. Yet that’s essentially what’s going on.

Before I catch a bunch of grief over my oversimplification of what’s taking place in Washington, please know that I understand the issues being debated at the Capitol are more complex and infinitely more serious than a hypothetical pickle dispute. It just seems to me that, in both cases, neither shutdown would take place if there were a few more grownups in the room.

If the government does indeed shut down, albeit temporarily, it will create a logistical and financial nightmare for millions of Americans who depend on certain services the government provides. Yet that’s not what concerns me most. What concerns me is the message a shutdown will send to Americans and our neighbors around the world.

I think it symbolizes the complete and total lack of respect that Congress has for the American people. We sent them there to handle our business. We sent them there to run the government. We don’t always like how they go about it, but that’s OK. That’s what elections are for; if we don’t like how one set of folks is doing the job, we can send another bunch of folks up to Washington to try to do it better.

In the meantime, we expect the ones that are there now to do the work we sent them to do. We’re not paying them to like each other and agree on everything; we’re paying them to get a job done. When I drop my five bucks on the counter at Mickey D’s, I don’t care if the fry guy and the Coke guy can’t agree on an appropriate pickle count; I just want my darn Happy Meal.

A shutdown will further prove to the world that we continue to lack significant leadership ability at the highest levels of our government. Next time around, we had better think a lot longer and harder about whom we choose to occupy the Oval Office.

The president is the chief executive officer of the United States. If the business of the people goes undone, guess who’s responsible? He is. It’s in the job description. That’s the price of being the leader — you get the credit when thing go well and are held accountable when they don’t.

Our current president has never held any sort of leadership position, at least not that I’m aware of, prior to the one he currently occupies, and it shows. It’s the manager’s job at McDonald’s, among other things, to make sure the folks in the back quit bickering long enough to pump out a few happy meals. This shutdown would happen on his watch. He should be prepared to accept accountability.

It’s out there for the whole world to see right now that we can’t handle our own business at home, yet we want to get in the middle of everyone else’s business abroad. Our government’s credibility, both at home and abroad, are on the line. It’s time for the grownups in the room to stand up and get the job done.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.