Republican right-wing congressional cabal has gut-punched the American small business community by causing the federal government to shut down and threatening default on the national debt. Because of their stubborn refusal to accept defeat on the Affordable Care Act, employers and workers from here to New York are wondering if Congress cares in the least about the consequences of its actions.
Ironically, you often hear many of these same politicians say government ought to be run like a business. That sounds great and fits nicely on a bumper sticker, but coming from this crowd it rings hollow and is grossly misapplied.
There are countless aspects of government that are inherently not like a business and the way the politicians themselves have been running it lately looks more like the food fight in “Animal House” than a well-run enterprise. Were it a business, stakeholders would be calling for the sacking of the executive suite and filing for bankruptcy.
As the founder of a Latino-owned small business that provides services to the federal government, and presently has projects stuck in the pipeline, my disappointment is directed at the body politic as a whole. But my frustration is focused on those who have abandoned any pretense of statesmanship. It’s particularly galling when you consider their actions violate every fundamental principle of business. They’ve disrupted operations, humiliated the workforce, brought disarray to vital strategic relationships and undermined confidence in the organization’s financial stability.
The fallout from the shutdown is by no means limited to my sector. Consider the chaos caused by the closure of the nation’s E-Verify system that checks the immigration status of new hires, the use of which is mandated in many states. Or the devastation a delayed Small Business Administration loan can cause a cash-strapped business. Or a firm that can’t get an Environmental Protection Agency permit to proceed with a project. Or a family farm that needs help from a Department of Agriculture field office. Or a business that caters to tourists traveling to national parks. It’s a list without end.
But it’s not just business. An arbitrary government shutdown affects millions of people in need and it’s hitting the Latino community particularly hard. From the 4 million mothers and children who will be deprived of nutrition provided by the Women, Infants and Children Program, to thousands of immigration cases thrown into limbo, to first-time Latino home buyers in need of Federal Housing Administration approval. It hurts.
The right to protest is sacrosanct in this nation. The aggrieved routinely go on strike, boycott goods, sign petitions and commit acts of civil disobedience.
When all else fails, authority figures often resign in protest. While that would be my preferred mechanism of dissent for these guys, I seriously doubt they’ll summon the courage. Absent their letter of resignation, there must be preventative measures taken to stop this from happening again.
With respect to the broader issue of government shutdowns, a good deterrent would be for members of Congress to suspend their own pay along with everyone else during a shutdown. In addition, the president should be empowered to fund the government by executive order when Congress fails to pass a budget.
We the people must also stop electing and re-electing those who give us bromides instead of solutions. When they say “I’m going to shake up Washington,” demand to know “How?” When they say, “I will not compromise,” demand to know “At what cost?” And when they say “Government ought to run like a business,” vote them out when that business fails. Because if you own a business you know its people and operation come first over your desires. And not your own paycheck.
March with your votes!
Luis Vasquez-Ajmac is president of MAYA, a multicultural agency in Los Angeles and Washington.