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Christopher Fox Graham - ANALast week, our country's leaders did the unreasonable: Through their refusal to negotiate or compromise over policy, the federal government shut down.

Federal workers from all departments, ranging from NASA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service and even civilian workers with the U.S. Department of Defense were furloughed until the members of Congress settle their squabble. Most political fights in Washington, D.C., stay there, but this failure affects us all.



National parks are closed. At the Grand Canyon, park workers were forced to keep out river guides and their passengers, some of whom are camped out at the gates waiting to enter when the shutdown ends.

National monuments like Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot and heritage sites like Palatki and Honanki are closed, meaning tourists who come to the Verde Valley to learn about our region's history are forced to turn back.

We've noticed more tour buses in Sedona lately, as groups who planned to spend a day at the ruins, in Uptown or visiting sites in the Verde Valley spend more time here instead of taking their passengers to the Grand Canyon. In the very short term, Sedona businesses and hotels make a little more revenue from visitors already here. If the shutdown lasts more than this week, American tourists will skip Arizona's national parks and monuments altogether. International tourists may also head elsewhere rather than visit Arizona.

Heading out of Phoenix late Sunday, I saw numerous signs straddling Interstate 17 clearly stating "Grand Canyon National Park Closed" — Phoenicians are being turned back 100 miles south of Sedona. Instead of spending a weekend in Northern Arizona, they may head to Las Vegas or the beaches of California.

The shutdown has made it harder for us to do our job at the newspaper. Last week, I tried to verify one number in a news story, but found the U.S. Census Bureau's website was also down.

Members of Congress have a 10 percent approval rating, but 90 percent of House incumbents and 91 percent of Senate incumbents are reelected. As voters, we choose our leaders, so it's up to us to change the playing field. We want our politicians to fight for our side's ideology, but when it goes this far, we have to say, "Stop." We need more moderates in our government, and those already there need to compromise and bend. A phone call or email right now may help, but the next few elections are when we really have a chance to fix the problem we created.

Estimates suggest the U.S. economy loses $10 billion per day due to the federal shutdown. To the world — to our country's friends, allies, rivals and enemies — we seem to be saying that we don't know what we're doing. It's hard to be a beacon of democracy when we turn off the lights.

 


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