Shutdown

     The Stagecoach Inn in Seligman, Ariz., is a great old motel from the 1950s: low-lying, U-shaped, around a gravel drive, with corny, larger-than-life murals of Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Elvis and other worthies painted on the walls between the rooms.
     It’s a beat-up old place by the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad tracks. I liked hearing those trains pass by, chuffing and puffing, rousing me gently from sleep, dropping me back.
     The Stagecoach Inn lost eight room reservations on Tuesday because of the Republicans’ government shutdown. A Chinese tour group canceled because the Grand Canyon was closed.
     Imagine that: the Grand Canyon was closed.
     I stayed at the Stagecoach Inn that night; that’s how I know.
     Seligman, pop. 445, is 97 miles from the Grand Canyon. That’s where Seligman’s economy comes from: relative proximity to a remote place.
     There are nine hotels in Seligman. So Seligman’s hoteliers lost about $5,000 Tuesday in room reservations alone, because the Republican Party closed the Grand Canyon.
     Add meals, gas and incidentals, the people who live in Seligman have been losing about $10,000 a day since Arizona’s dearly beloved Republicans shut down the government.
     That’s a punishment of $225 a day for every day of the government shutdown for each and every of the 445 citizens of Seligman, including the fifth grader who walked around and around the hotel driveway with me and told me about his absent dad.
     This was the 17th time I’ve driven across the country. The first time was 44 years ago. The second was 39 years ago, during the Watergate hearings. I listened to them all the way from Oregon to New York. The Vietnam War was raging, and the national news, all day every day, was that Richard Nixon’s ass was in a sling.
     This week the national news, all day every day, was about the government shutdown – particularly its effect on federal workers. Arizona’s 22 national parks and monuments employ about 10,000 federal workers. More than 10 million people visit those places every year – call it 850,000 people a month – give or take a tourist.
     The radio dwelled on the federal workers – who will be paid, sooner or later – but said nothing, that I heard, about the hurt suffered by those famous “small business owners” who supposedly form the backbone of the Republican Party.
     Many of those 850,000 tourists who wanted to see Arizona this month come, or would have come, from far away. To say they would have spent $100 a day in Arizona is ridiculous: that barely covers the costs of their canceled hotel rooms. With meals, gas, tips and trinkets, let’s say, conservatively, that those tourists would have spent $200 a day. That’s $170 million lost to Arizona in October. And that’s a ridiculous understatement. Lost car rentals, air fares, fast food and so on surely drive Arizona citizens’ loss to twice or thrice that: close to half a billion dollars. Just for October.
     Seligman lost 2.4 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010. By any measure, it’s a dying town. Its median per capita income is 75 percent of the median per capita income of Arizona. And Arizona ranks 30th among the states in median per capita income.
     In the 40 years since the Watergate hearings, the Republican Party has dominated U.S. politics. It still dominates it, though we have a so-called Democrat in the White House and Democrats control the Senate.
     The major U.S. political figure in these 40 years was Ronald Reagan. In eight years, he turned the United States from the world’s largest creditor into the world’s largest debtor. George Bush II created the wars and tax policies from which we and the world are still suffering, and that tripled our national debt in less than a decade.
     It boggles my mind that Republicans still draw their electoral strength from people such as the poor citizens of Seligman, who are being devastated every day by the stupid and vicious policies of the Party of Lincoln. A party whose major legislative triumph, this month, has been to close the Grand Canyon.

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