U.S. government shutdown scuppers weddings, KKK rally
Americans stand to learn value of 'little things that they took for granted' from the state
Americans are finding their lives upended in startling ways by the government shutdown now in its third day. Weddings are in peril, vacations are ruined and a Midwest farmer can't even cash a check for a cow he sold.
The federal government, Americans are learning, entails a lot more than the stereotype of faceless Washington bureaucrats.
About 800,000 of those workers, from tax agents to janitors, are bearing the brunt of the shutdown, forced to stay home without pay.
There was no end in sight to the impasse in Washington, which centres on Republican attempts to curtail President Barack Obama's health care law as part of a temporary funding bill.
- The blame game: Republicans, Democrats and the shutdown
- Graphic: What's open and what's closed?
- Analysis: Neil Macdonald on the perverse math that enables the Tea Party
For the greater public, random activities of daily life are becoming casualties.
Two dozen October weddings, including nine this week, are in jeopardy because they're scheduled for closed off monument sites in Washington. The same was true for a New Jersey couple planning to marry at the Grand Canyon.
Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le have a permit to get married Saturday on the lawn near the Jefferson Memorial. That looks like it's not going to happen so they are scrambling for alternate sites, including the restaurant booked for their reception. Their new Twitter hashtag: .shutdownwedding.
It's not just romance, tourism and public events that are in jeopardy.
Can't cash cheque
Consider the Wisconsin farmer who can't cash a cheque for a cow he sold.
Ben Brancel, the state's agriculture secretary, said that because the farmer has a federal loan, he can't cash the check without both his own signature and one from a Farm Service Agency official, unavailable during the shutdown.
"Our advice to him was he was going to have to wait, that there wasn't anything he could do about it," Brancel said.
There are harsher consequences, too.
American Indian tribes, who rely more heavily on federal subsidies, are coping with disrupted services including foster care payments, nutrition programs and financial assistance for the needy.
Some tribes intend to fill the gap in federal funds themselves, risking deficits of their own to cushion communities with chronic high unemployment and poverty against the effects of the budget battle.
"Do we just throw kids onto the street, or do we help them? Most likely we're going to help those families and do whatever we can until this is unresolved," said Tracy "Ching" King, president of northern Montana's Fort Belknap Reservation.
Also taking a hit is the federal Head Start program that provides pre-school, meals and health care to more than 1 million low-income children a year. Four Head Start pre-school providers that serve 3,200 low-income children in four states are closing and others are looking for alternative sources of funding.
Aspiring home owners applying for a mortgage can expect delays, especially if the shutdown is prolonged. That's because many lenders need government confirmation of applicants' income tax returns and other data.
National parks closed
Families who set out for cherished sites from Yellowstone Park to the historic monuments of Washington were dismayed to find precious vacation time ruined.
Some were so angry with Congress they lost their cool.
Near the Capitol, a man with three children in tow approached a shiny black SUV and shouted loudly through the tinted window: "Are you a U.S. representative? Please explain to my children why they can't have their educational tour!"
One possible silver lining to shutdown annoyances: The whole thing could serve as a teachable moment for all those people who tell pollsters that they want budget cuts — as long as they aren't directly affected.
"As time goes by, more and more people see these little things that they took for granted," said Ed Lorenzen, a policy adviser at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group pushing for spending discipline.
He said the shutdown could serve as a reminder that "you're not going to be able to the balance the budget just by cutting spending in Washington that doesn't affect people."