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Front Porch: One parent’s humble fix for Congress

Longtime readers know I don’t wade into politics in this column. I let others do the dirty work of calling out corruption, explaining political policy and making fun of Joe Biden.

Me? I stick to vital topics like cats, kids and underwear.

But I’m writing this on Tuesday morning and the federal government has just plunged into a partial shutdown. I fully expect Congress and the president to have resolved their differences by the time you read this, but then again I fully expected all of my sons to be potty-trained by age 2. That didn’t happen.

While I understand the seriousness of approximately 800,000 federal employees being out of work for a few hours or several days, the hysterical hyperbole of political pundits left me unfazed.

That is until this morning when I turned on my computer and discovered the Panda Cam at the National Zoo had been turned off.

They shut down the Panda Cam! As my teenagers say, “Stuff just got real.” (Well that’s not exactly what they say, but this is a family-friendly newspaper).

I promptly launched a Google search to uncover important information: Aside from no Panda Cam, how will the government shutdown affect ME?

The answer? Not a whole lot.

I still have to pay taxes. I still had to file this column. I can still get a patent or trademark. My junk mail will still be crammed into my mailbox.

What I can’t do is go camping at a national park. But it snowed Monday, and they closed Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacier, anyway. Also, I don’t camp. Ever.

I won’t be able to call the U.S. Census Bureau, which is a shame because I might have an important question about the population of Nome, Alaska. Oh wait. The Internet still works – well so far, anyway.

It’s probably not a good time to apply for an FHA loan, that is, if I wanted an FHA loan.

But enough about me, how does this shutdown affect others? Well, the president still gets paid, but the White House executive residence staff is reduced from 90 to 15. I’m not sure if this means the president will have to make his own bed or sandwiches, but it’s a possibility. And I doubt anyone will be dusting the lampshades.

Congress still gets paid. Oh, the irony.

Most NASA employees were sent home, so I guess we won’t be launching anything into outer space. A lot of EPA workers won’t be at their desks, but I’m not really sure what those 16,205 pollution-averse employees do.

Over at the Department of Labor, mine-safety inspectors are still on the job, but wage and occupational safety regulators stayed home. If I want to stand up on my office chair and staple something to my ceiling, I can do that without fear of being cited for workplace safety violations.

However, if the shutdown is still going on when you read this column, I may just have to fly to Washington and let Congress and the president experience the effect of the Buddy Bench.

When my sons were little, feuding and fisticuffs occasionally broke out among them. Accusations would fly. “He started it.” “Did not.” “Did so!”

My solution? The Buddy Bench. The two fighting parties had to sit next to each other until they worked out their differences without pinching, poking or pushing. No TV, no video games, no snacks until they’d settled things between them. Sometimes, I even made them hold hands.

They boys rarely lasted 30 minutes on the Buddy Bench. Suddenly, they had motivation to get along, and finger-pointing and name-calling lost its appeal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected leaders could discover the magic of compromise and working together for a common goal? If they can’t, I say bench ’em.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at www.spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.