Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

The big news is, as I am sure you’ve heard, the government shutdown has been averted. For now. We will go through this whole rigmarole again, no doubt, in November since that is as far down the proverbial road as they managed to kick the budgetary can.

And this leaves me feeling annoyed. I think that is the polite term for it.

This is a problem that needs to be solved. This “habit of governing by crisis,” as former President Obama put it (back in 2013 when facing a similar moment), has simply got to stop. It is bad for everyone.

At the start of the weekend, when it looked like yet another shutdown was about to kick off (it would have been the 22nd shutdown since 1976 after the rules around budgeting changed in 1974 and this became a thing), there was a lot of analysis about what it would mean for us in Maine.

According to a Sept. 25 piece in the Portland Press Herald (“Shutdown would be disastrous for Maine, top lawmakers warn“), the highlights would include Acadia National Park ($479 million dollars into our economy last year) closed at peak leaf-peeping season; food assistance for 18,000 women and children jeopardized; a halt to passports, federally-backed small business loans and mortgages; federal courts closing if not resolved within two weeks; and more than 11,000 federal workers in Maine (3.5 million nationwide) furloughed or working without pay.

OK, let’s just zero in on that last one for a moment – 11,000 Mainers suddenly without a paycheck. I don’t know about you, or how your household budget works, but I know if that was me, that would be a serious problem.


It is unconscionable that our elected representatives see fit to play so fast and loose with the livelihoods of the people they are meant to be serving. The running of our nation is not some game to be played for personal gratification or scoring points over a political opponent.

Worse still, you know whose paycheck would not be impacted by a shutdown? The very people making it happen. No matter if the government shuts down or not, members of the House and Senate will continue to get paid. That’s infuriating.

In my heart of hearts, what I would most like to see happen is a rule change making it so that if Congress can’t agree on a budget, Congress gets fired. All of them. For dereliction of duty. After all, the smooth and efficient running of the government is the baseline responsibility. In any other job, if you slacked off to such an extent that your employer was forced to close, you’d get sacked.

However, I realize this is just a fantasy fueled by indignant rage. No doubt all you grown-ups out there would be able to explain to me the ramifications of that in full, and tell me all the realistic reasons why that can’t happen. Fine. I cede the point.

Can we at least agree on a change making it so that if “essential workers,” such as law enforcement and air traffic controllers, have to show up to work without being paid, the same rules apply to Congress?

No paycheck. And none of this “home for recess” nonsense.

Truth be told, I’d love to see a punitive angle as well. Maybe, say, their pay is actually docked at a rate of one week’s worth for every day the shutdown lasts? Even better if there were a way to freeze assets so they would have to experience what it is like for those workers who exist paycheck to paycheck. To know the anxiety of a looming mortgage payment, or the continuing child care costs.

But really, what we need most of all is a focus on making our entire nation stronger, better, more able to decide who and what we want our collective future to be.

Enough of the gamesmanship. Pass a real budget, establish some stability, stop playing games with our country’s future and get serious about civic responsibility.

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