The Dangers of Washington’s Soul Shutdown

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When business leaders stray from their missions, profits suffer.  But when our leaders in Washington lose their way, they court all sorts of disasters, leading a hapless nation to the edge of fiscal cliffs and even putting some of us in mortal danger.  Enough already. Before they do irreparable harm, our nation’s leaders must remind themselves why they got into the business of public service and start acting in accordance with the higher ideals that landed them in office in the first place.

Much has been written about Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace survey that revealed that half of U.S. employees are “not engaged” at work.  With all the finger-pointing and political shenanigans going on, it appears that our politicians are no longer engaged in the mission of serving the public.  They are engaged all right, but in a ferocious battle of partisan politics where the prize of the game they’re playing now is arguably at odds with the job they were elected to do.  And the results are truly catastrophic.

Allison Rimm Lock ShutdownHow can anyone involved in this shameful shutdown believe they are serving the public good when the collateral damage includes children with cancer who are being denied potentially life-saving treatments or military widows who were hassled with the possibility of a delay in receiving their spouse’s death benefits?  And how many hundreds of millions of dollars are taxpayers spending to pay furloughed workers for what amounts to an unmanaged vacation plan?  That amount alone could, paradoxically, fund the health benefits and subsidies allowed under the Affordable Care Act for millions of eligible recipients.

Can you imagine a hospital CEO bickering with her board and the trustees voting to shut down the facility because some of them didn’t like a program they’d approved the previous year?  Preposterous, right?  Well, that’s what’s happening with our government, only the consequences are worse. Patients in that nonsensical, unimaginable scenario could go to another hospital to get the treatment they need, but Americans cannot flee en masse to Canada and Mexico to get needed government services.

Like a board of trustees with fiduciary responsibilities, Congress’s job is to uphold the constitution. It’s hard to believe that our founding fathers could have imagined this unlikely state of affairs.  I applaud the leadership that some members of Congress have displayed in recent days as debt crisis is now only hours away.  It should never have come to this.

So, how do the rest of our nation’s leaders get themselves and the country back on track?  They need to re-engage with their personal missions and consider what true, soul-satisfying success means for their careers.  On their deathbeds, will they feel fulfilled by winning a scathing battle that filled their campaign coffers, or will they claim victory for contributing to the safety, wellbeing and prosperity of the nation and its citizens? Will they recall a time when they connected personally with a single constituent whose life was better because of their intervention?  Ultimately, the currency of elected officials is the number of votes they receive at election time.  I know which type of leader is likely to get mine.



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