Distinguish wants, needs

You can only shake your head in disbelief considering the implications of the debacle surrounding the partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C.

At first glance, the dispute appears to be merely a tug-of-war between Democrats and Republicans. Yet a closer examination reveals that both Congress and the executive branch have ignored a fundamental and basic distinction that even your average kindergartner comprehends. Much like the contrast between needs and wants, there is a fine distinction between essential and nonessential services.

It has been reported that some nonessential services, such as the operation of museums and national parks, have ground to a halt. While I certainly acknowledge the learning opportunities provided by museums, and the beauty and splendor of our national parks, I think we can stipulate that these government functions are secondary to the powers implicitly provided to our federal government by our Constitution.

With a $16 trillion debt, can we even remotely believe that these services are appropriate and legitimate functions of our federal government? Why not delegate these nonessential services to private providers? Should we even dwell on the lack of these services to be provided? Absolutely not.

On the other hand, essential services should continue without fail. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “essential” as being necessary or indispensable. Of course, we can inquire as to why the National Institutes of Health’s cancer research; death benefits to surviving family members of fallen soldiers; disability benefits to our veterans; and some military functions provided at Fort Gordon are not deemed to be essential by the feds. Perhaps our federal government is short on the necessary intellectual acumen to distinguish between essential and nonessential. Essential services must be delivered without skipping a beat.

As a doting dad, I can say with pride that my 6-year-old kindergartener is astute enough to distinguish between wants and needs. An example of a need is food or a roof over your head. On the other hand, a want is a toy or a sweet treat. My child discussed this concept recently in her class and was bright enough to grasp these terms at once.

To me, wants and needs are analogous to nonessential and essential services. The former are nice to have, but the latter are necessary and indispensable. A kindergartener apparently is smarter than your average president or member of Congress. I am sure there are a few members of Congress who are exceptions to the rule. Yet it pains me to realize that they are in the minority. Or I could be cynical and suggest that our leadership in Washington is smarter than they are letting on, and have staked out their positions for purely political purposes. Either way, their actions are a disgrace.

Your average kindergartener also can appreciate the need to communicate with others – even those we do not agree with. Yet our leaders refuse to even talk. Perhaps we should just send a few of our kindergarteners to Washington to enlighten those who should be looking out for the future of our next generation.

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