Washington’s Strange Bedfellows Cause Sleepless Nights for Americans

The National Minority Business Council cautions elected officials that not reaching a compromise on a long-term solution to the Federal government budget will have repercussions that will extend to the voting booth, this coming November and next.
April 7, 2011 - PRLog -- By John F. Robinson, President and CEO
National Minority Business Council

     Like many individuals and organizations around the country, I and the National Minority Business Council (www.nmbc.org), which I head, have been monitoring closely the budget negotiations in Washington with keen interest and less than fond memories of the 1995 Federal government shut-down.  Wednesday night’s eleventh-hour budget talks at the White House reportedly made some progress. But as one national news organization reported, despite the warm spring Washington night, the air between Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, afterwards, was decidedly “frosty.”  Or was that actually smoke still billowing from the heated budget discussions over which President Obama and Vice President Biden presided?
     These strange bedfellows no-doubt have been causing sleepless nights for a wide-range of Americans, from the projected 800,000 “non-essential” Federal government employees to veterans and active members of the armed forces living paycheck to paycheck, to small business owners who count on revenue from government contracts to keep their doors open, pay their employees, and provide healthcare benefits heavily touted by the Obama administration as essential to healthcare reform and the country’s overall economic recovery.  
        These same small businesses have been credited by this and previous administrations as the backbone of the nation’s economy.  President Obama, Sen. Reid and Speaker Boehner:  Don’t now twist and put undo stress on our spines!  Reach a compromising agreement to keep our country moving forward in the right direction!
         As the President and CEO of the NMBC, as well as the husband of a now-retired federal government employee furloughed during the 1995 shutdown and father of a then school-age son who is now serving in Iraq, I have vivid memories of those 21 days over the 1995-96 Christmas holidays in which Scrooge, not Santa, figured more prominently in the lives of millions of Americans.  But I suppose that if you stay long enough working for the same organization, as I have, it’s only natural that you are going to see the same or similar issues re-surface.  The 350 current members of NMBC – the majority of who are people of color, women, or veterans who have struck out on their own as entrepreneurs after serving our country honorably -- are fearful of the impact of a shutdown.  
        One Washington analyst likened a potential shutdown of less than a week to having no greater impact than a snowstorm.  Longer than that, it might be likened to a blizzard.  But there’s a difference between an annoying but temporary weather pattern and a recurring pattern of bad behavior on Capitol Hill.  Snow eventually stops falling and begins to melt.  Storms often energize individuals, business owners and local municipalities to fight back with an assault of human and mechanized snow removal power.  As bleak as a winter storm may be, hope is in sight as we mark off the calendar days towards the first hour of spring.
        Ah, but spring officially arrived more than two weeks ago!  Yet we face a storm that will impact communities from Hawaii to Maine and Alaska to Texas.  Local newspaper reports around the country have inventoried which national parks and monuments in their communities, all important but “non-essential” tourist attractions, will either be shut down or have to severely curtail their services and accessibility.  So what if tourists can’t visit the Statue of Liberty on their spring vacation to New York City?  Too bad; they can still get a good view of it from Manhattan’s coastline.  That is, of course, if the tourists still come.  And if they don’t that is too bad – very bad – for the hospitality industry, from the major airlines to the proprietors of small bed and breakfast establishments, as well as many other industries that are contracted to provide services to the government.
        Lady Liberty will hopefully be watching over New York’s harbor for generations to come, providing plenty of opportunities for future tourist visits.  But wait!  Apparently this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, about to burst forth, is at threat.  Once again, Mother Nature has the upper hand.  The blossoms will open as she has scheduled them, tourists or no tourists to ooh and ah and digitize their glorious, plump buds.  Unless, of course, Washington’s temporary residents (a/k/a members of Congress) take action.  
         I can assure our elected officials that the ability to compromise is as much a valued and respected sign of leadership as is digging in your heels to pacify a small but vocal constituency.  “Non-essential” government employees and all of the country’s small business owners may only temporarily lose paychecks and revenue streams.  But come November of this year and next, they will still have their memories of a 2011 government shut down and their right to vote.

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Source:National Minority Business Council
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Tags:John Boehner, Harry Reid, Obama, Federal Budget, Minorities, Entrepreneurs, Government Shut-down
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Page Updated Last on: Apr 07, 2011

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