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Pioneer Viewpoints: Shutdown is not a game

Fittingly, it’s football season.

And while Washington’s NFL team has struggled on the field, “political football” in Washington has been hitting on all cylinders for several weeks now.

The football? That’s the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which you may know as ObamaCare, and legislation moving through Congress that will keep the government running.

In keeping with the football parlance, it’s now fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line and both sides are firmly entrenched along the line of scrimmage. Will it be a touchdown for the Democrats, ensuring the government keeps operating and so does ObamaCare, or will the Republicans hold at the goal line, ensuring the government keeps operating but stripping some aspects of ObamaCare and delaying further implementation for a year?

And what happens if both sides can’t score their victory? Well, that’s a government shutdown, the first in 17 years.

A government shutdown is not a game, political or otherwise. According to news services, here’s some of the immediate impact: About 800,000 federal workers, who most recently went through furloughs and massive budget cuts with the sequester, would be out of work, without pay. National parks would close and many low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages may face delays. Passport applications would be delayed. Safety and some health services such as policing and border patrols, air traffic control and meat inspections would continue.

In Minnesota, we know government shutdowns — we’ve experienced two (2005, 2011) in the past decade. We know the economic harm they can cause. Now, imagine that at a federal level.

Let’s hope a compromise can be reached and a shutdown avoided, because no matter the potential points from a political touchdown, not funding the government is out of bounds.

Closer to home...

— Regardless of what happens in Washington, shutdown or not, the enrollment for health exchanges under ObamaCare starts today. These are online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses with less than 50 employees can shop for mandated insurance. In Minnesota, that means MNsure. And while there’s been a few hiccups with MNsure (read the Paul and Babe dust-up locally), and no matter your political thoughts on ObamaCare, let’s hope the enrollment runs smoothly.

— The Bemidji Fire Department should be commended for quick responses to two fires at prominent area buildings, one lost and one saved. Fire destroyed a building at Oak Hills Bible Camp early last week, and just Sunday, the fire was contained at Cattails Bar & Grill. No injuries were reported in either case. We know fighting fires is their job, but every once in awhile, you should still say thanks.

— Sanford Bemidji’s investment locally continues. Last week, the medical facility installed two hyperbaric chambers at the Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center. Bemidji is only the sixth medical center in Minnesota to offer the service, while North Dakota does not. One of the main uses of hyperbaric chambers is the treatment of chronic wounds, a problem for many with diabetes. With Beltrami County’s high rate of diabetes, having a local service help treat those wounds is a great benefit.

— Bemidji State University’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign is off to a rousing start. On the same day BSU officials made the $35 million campaign public, later that evening, they also informed us that more than $25 million already has been raised.