PITTSFIELD -- Now that the shutdown of the federal government is over, Pittsfield residents and their representatives are eager to place blame -- on Republicans.
After 16 days of a government shutdown, which left hundreds of thousands of federal workers taking days off with delayed checks and closed down national historic sites, Congress voted Wednesday night to open all government offices for business again.
The vote keeps the government operating at full capacity into January, and avoids a default on the country's debt until February by raising the debt limit.
News of a deal on the final day of the shutdown, near the final hour at which point the country would default on its debt obligations, didn't bring much glee to locals.
While there wasn't much direct discernible impact locally, most fretted about a dysfunctional government, a loss in status around the world and possible economic harm.
"A shame on both their houses," local attorney Leonard Cohen said.
"They just don't care about us," he said. "They just care about getting elected and the monies they need to get elected."
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, whose district includes all of Berkshire County, said it was "completely unnecessary to have reached this point. I think it was a manufactured crisis and I think it slowed down the economy."
Neal believes the shutdown prevented jobs from being created.
"Lurching from crisis to crisis is not an efficient way to administer the government."
The lifting of the debt ceiling is not about new spending, but about "paying your bills," Neal said.
Neal said "adult leadership" on the Republican side was needed to avert another replay of the shutdown.
"This is the deal they could have got 17 days ago," Neal said.
The only difference is a new mechanism to verify the income of those who apply for federal government subsidies to pay for health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, Neal said.
A desire by congressional Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act or amend it was the central cause of the shutdown.
Bill Barry, a Pittsfield attorney and former city councilman, said Congress was "just kicking the can down the road. I would much rather them resolve it. We're gonna be in the same situation in January.
"I don't think the Republicans have any idea what they are doing," Barry said.
"To what end?" he asked. "To stop Obamacare?... Move on."
City Councilman John Krol called the situation "disappointing."
He thought the country's international status was being put at stake. "You shouldn't be leveraging the full faith and weight of this country," he said.
Ernie Jordan, who has a hot dog stand on North Street, was quick to point the finger at House Speaker John Boehner for causing the shutdown.
"That Republican Boehner. I would get rid of him. He is the biggest pain," Jordan said. "He ought to get out and do a real day's work."
Jordan, a former General Electric employee, said "these guys, they don't have to pay for anything. They still get their pay. If you took their pay away, that thing would have been taken care of in 48 hours."
Sam Crane, chairman of the political science department at Williams College, said it was "pretty obvious from the start that this was a pretty losing strategy" by Republicans in the House.
He was surprised that Boehner let it drag on so long. He thinks Boehner did so to keep his position. In that respect, he said, "maybe it worked."
The economy could be hurt by increased borrowing costs, he said.
"The U.S. dollar and bonds are central to the U.S. economy," Crane said. "People purchase these bonds and have faith in the U.S. economy."
China, which holds more than $1.3 trillion in estimated U.S. debt, has used the moment to criticize America. Its leaders recently called on world powers to "de-Americanize the international economy," Crane said.
Young, independent voters, he said, will view Republicans as "ideologically intransigent."
Crane said Democrats will also lose some face.
"Everybody looks worse than before it."
Local attorney Matt Mozian thought the shutdown was simply about politics.
"It's just brinkmanship," Mozian said.
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