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The Madera Tribune

Government shutdown and proximity

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webmaster | 10/03/13

The rule of proximity is coming into play as the shutdown of the federal government proceeds. The rule of proximity is that the closer you are to what is happening, the more it affects you.

For example, if you own a restaurant near the government office complexes in Washington, D.C., you may find yourself looking at empty tables because people who usually fill them are staying home. It quickly becomes very important to you for the government to start up again, or your restaurant could go broke.

The farther away from Washington, D.C., you get, though, the less it matters. Naturally, if you are a federal employee who happens to be laid off, it matters deeply to you no matter where you live. But as distance from Washington grows, the domino effects, such as businesses being empty, lessen.

Most of the federal employees in Madera County work for either Yosemite National Park or the Forest Service. In season, about 1,800 are employed in the park, but that number drops way off after Labor Day.

In Madera, the busiest federal office probably is Social Security. The Post Office has more employees, but the Post Office isn’t affected by the shutdown. The mail must go through. Except for the individuals who are furloughed, life in Madera and most other places far away from D.C. will go on pretty much as before.

But in Washington, the situation is reversed. Government is the economic heartbeat. That’s why the shutdown is such a big story there, and on the national news. The law of proximity makes it seem to Washingtonians and to those who report on them as though the shutdown is all that’s happening.

And that’s also why government grows there — and in Sacramento and all other capitals — when it isn’t shut down. For the same reason farmers hereabouts plant new orchards or buy new milk cows, capital bureaucrats make new rules, set up new agencies and open new offices to house the new employees who will work for those agencies.

This government shutdown may cool expansion like that off a little, but it’s too bad individual federal workers have to be hurt.


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