News Local/State

Shutdown Gives Americans New Reason To Hate Washington


There's nothing like a government shutdown to make people angry about government, or at least the politicians who are running things.

"The people we have in the Senate and the House of Representatives, I don't know who they're working for, but they're not working for us," says Larry Abernathy, an insurance broker in St. Louis. "I think both parties are useless."

It's a widely shared belief. People in this Midwestern city may be far removed from the back and forth of the budget debate that has paralyzed Washington, but the partial shutdown is very much on their minds.

Residents say they're disgusted — and that their blood pressure is rising.

The story has led local news coverage. Office workers are talking about it in conference calls and sharing links to angry commentaries via email and social media. Area mayors seem to be shaking their head in dismay over the poor performance of their big-league political peers.

"They're seeing it in action," says Maggie Crane, communications director for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, referring to the shuttered local monuments and the potential harm to nearby military bases. "It's not some abstract idea."

St. Louis is a Democratic city, so many people say they hold House Speaker John Boehner or Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz more responsible for the current gridlock than President Obama.

The most commonly expressed sentiment, however, seems to be a plague on both parties' houses.

"It looks bad for the country as a whole when the leadership cannot work out their differences," says Jim Yount, an IT worker from Florissant who has a son serving in the military.

Fears For The Economy

The shutdown doesn't dominate all local conversation — not with the Cardinals in the baseball playoffs.

But the St. Louis region, despite being home to nearly 3 million people, remains a fairly tightknit community. Many people know someone — or know someone who knows someone — among the 25,000 federal workers in the area.

"I think it's crazy those people aren't going to have work for three weeks, or longer," says Joel McPeak, a credit analyst at a bank where a co-worker has a mother out on furlough. "I also think it's crazy that they had that deadline and weren't able to come to some kind of a conclusion."

He's especially concerned that if no deal is reached in time to stave off a default on federal debt, it will severely damage the financial markets and the larger economy. Earl Smith, a construction worker at a downtown office renovation project, says when people are out of work long enough, some of them will come looking to take jobs in his field.

"When people are nervous about the economy, they don't come out and shop, and a government shutdown makes people nervous about the economy," says Jonesy Johnson, who works at Left Bank Books.