Our Opinion: Hurt by the shutdown
Defenders of the Republican government shutdown, and the disastrous threatened debt ceiling default likely to come next week, may make light of their impact, but it has been a while since the party leadership and its radical wing have been reality-based. The impact of the shutdown has and will be felt by millions of Americans directly or indirectly, and as usual those most hurt are those who need help the most, like the poor, the elderly and veterans of the military.
The Centers for Disease Control, perhaps out of favor with extremists because it is a scientific organization, reported Wednesday that it was slow to discover and respond to a salmonella outbreak in 18 states that has sickened nearly 300 because furloughs triggered by the shutdown of funding to the CDC left it shorthanded. More alarmingly, the shutdown also has forced the CDC to suspend its weekly compilation of influenza monitoring data, which it needs to track flu outbreaks and be alert to potentially life-threatening new strains. Although there are those on the right who see vaccinations as a nefarious government conspiracy, it is wise to get one. Flu shots are now available from health practitioners around Berkshire County and the CDC told Daily Finance on Wednesday that vaccine supplies are not as yet threatened by the shutdown.
The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the shutdown has suspended funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which means that as the heating season begins many of the organizations that provide fuel assistance for the poor and elderly in Massachusetts are not or will soon not be able to do so. If the shutdown is still going on when the first cold snap hits New England, those freezing at home could try calling House Speaker John Boehner for help.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, reported that roughly 7,000 Department of Veterans Affairs workers who had finally begun to shrink a backlog in disability benefits had been laid off because of the shutdown. Regional offices set up to provide services for veterans are shut down as well. If the shutdown continues, Senator Sanders said, funding will dry up for veterans' pension and health benefits. A Republican Party quick to wave the flag when Americans go off to war is thoroughly failing all the veterans of America's wars through its politically motivated shutdown.
"Our veterans deserve better," Mr. Sanders declared. So do all Americans affected by a shutdown brought by a party trying to get through extortion what it can't get at the ballot box.