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WETS business segment knowingly feeds misinformation

Jennie Young, Community Voices • Jan 9, 2019 at 8:00 AM

On a recent Saturday morning, I heard an interview on Business Matters, a locally produced program on WETS. The weekly program provides discussion of the latest economic numbers and some wider business issues, usually with a guest, local business persons, ETSU professional staff, or sometimes elected representatives.

The host asked a local guest if the partial government shutdown would affect the economy significantly, especially if of long duration. The guest responded that he didn’t think so, but “getting the government off our backs” is a good thing. That statement hit my ear as shockingly ill-considered, blasé, callous and arrogant.

While government regulations can be burdensome and complicated, they are usually aimed at protecting the public good. I’ve been involved with small family businesses, and navigating regulations and making quarterly reports was rarely pleasant, but I never doubted the rationale. Same with paying income taxes. For my household, it’s about paying our share for the benefit of the common good. (Yep, even with a president whose goal in life, in concert with parents, siblings and his children, has been to avoid paying a share if it can be contrived.) Accepting democratically imposed taxes through our representative self-governance, with a willing if not always cheerful heart, seems to be a Democrat thing. The government isn’t our enemy.

As to the real-world impact of a partial government shutdown, it can’t be insignificant that 800,000 workers will not receive wages for the duration. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t report for work. 420,000 of the number are considered “essential,” like air-traffic controllers and prison guards, who must report to critically important, even dangerous posts — without pay.

Because of Republican hype, many of us consider government jobs cushy and well paid, even unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it takes their absence before too many of us let that untruth sink in. These are real folks in real jobs with real bills for childcare, for groceries. No need to spell it out. Large numbers of the furloughed workers are lower-pay-grade maintenance staff who live paycheck to paycheck. It doesn‘t take much imagination to understand that lack of regular wages will create serious hardship for hundreds of thousands, AND the businesses that depend on the steady patronage of government workers. It’s a long-standing symbiosis. Expect a hurtful ripple effect.

I’m never surprised when Republicans cast aside concern for the collateral damage to individuals and families in such situations, but I am surprised when spokespersons seems not to understand that the collateral damage won’t stop. What happens to supermarkets, say, when the money runs out for food stamps, as surely it will if the shutdown doesn’t end soon? What happens to the economy when the IRS, operating with a diminished staff, is unable to issue refunds in the normal fashion expected by the millions who file early?

The hypocrisy of Republicans regarding Trump’s trumped up border-wall/government-shutdown-hostage-taking scheme is staggering. The notion of a border wall is a foolish, antiquated solution to border security to begin with, which is why it has very little popular support. Why else didn’t it happen with the executive and legislative branches under Republican domination for two full years? Only the Trump die-hards keep pounding that drum. (Embarrassing, isn’t it, that they still include the likes of Phil Roe and Marsha Blackburn? But not thoughtful Lamar Alexander.) How odd that it’s become acceptable to Trumpsters that Mexico’s not going to foot the bill after all. Trump’s now decided that we will, and, by God, our government won’t work until we do. That’s trash talk by any reasonable standard. Honestly, Phil and Marsha, what country is still building physical walls to keep people out?

I don’t trust Republicans who say the federal government isn’t trustworthy. Just watch when government contracts are proffered how quickly government loses all malevolence and businesses rush to partner up. And how apt businesses are to howling when normally reliable government services are interrupted. No area businesses would remain silent if the Tennessee governor pulled a Trump stunt, to distract from bad publicity, by shutting down state agencies and furloughing thousands of state employees. Every city, town, county and business in the state would rightly cry foul.

I am surprised to be still capable of disappointment over the seeming inability of Republicans to acknowledge that a purely partisan, politically motivated government shutdown might have a humanitarian and moral dimension, one counter to our nation’s principles. I expected at least a mild challenge from the interviewer to the statement on Business Matters.

I understand the market for niche broadcasting, like Business Matters, and I listen because I’m listening to WETS when that program airs. I’m no fan and always question why is it that programs that focus exclusively on economics, whether it’s on MSNBC or WETS, gear the content to Wall-Street-Journal-reader types. They have to know it’s a patently unrealistic economic report. They seldom deal with the underbelly of our economy where the poor, where the paycheck-to-paycheck folks reside.

Not once have I heard Business Matters address Tennessee’s abominable poverty rate, normally 10th among our country’s poorest. That pay-day-lending joints and the private-prison industry do well on Wall Street ought not to mean a rosy outlook.

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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