No way to run a railroad

Published 3:59 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018

In a 1932 magazine of humor, there is a full-page picture of two locomotives heading toward each other on the same track. They are about 20 feet apart. The caption underneath the picture reads, “What a way to run a railroad!” That cartoon could have been the forerunner of the idiom “That’s no way to run a railroad.”

That’s exactly what I have been thinking as, every month or so, we are deluged with headlines that scream “Government Shutdown.” Here’s what I think.

First of all, what a mess. If the people who make up this great country of ours ran their homes and businesses like the politicians in Washington run the government, it would be a chaotic country, even more so than it is. Thankfully, most Americans are much more responsible than the folks we elect.

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Which begs the question. “Why do we put up with such?” I don’t know what our elected officials did before they decided to bless us with their so-called leadership, but it couldn’t have been working for a living!

How many of us have unlimited spending accounts? How many of us never have to account for the way we do our jobs? How far would we get if we didn’t have plans for the future?

Here is another thing that would be funny if it were not so pathetic. Just a month ago, sometime in mid-December, Congress voted to continue the current rates of spending so that we could keep the government open through the holiday season.

I guess they didn’t want to mess with Santa Claus. Everybody knows that Santa takes the names of those who’ve been good or bad, so our congress made a deal to keep the government open during the holidays and patted each other on the back. Were you fooled? Not me. I knew that when we turned the calendar to a new year, we’d be back in the same place with threats of shutdown.

And it happened, only this time there was no Santa Claus to prevent an actual shutdown. One side figured they held the winning hand. So did the other side, so they “shut ‘er’ down.” Who is on the winning side may be up for debate, but not the losing side. Look in the mirror!

Most Americans woke up Saturday morning and went to work, either at their businesses or their chores around their homes. In any case, the so-called theater of Washington’s government shutdown played to a mostly indifferent audience. We sort of shrugged our shoulders and shook our heads.

Of course Americans care about good governance, but it’s been so long since we have seen a responsible government, most of us don’t know what it looks like. We have come to expect the shenanigans of Washington. We’ve gotten used to such inefficiency and silliness.

Let me ask you a question. Do you really expect anything good to come from up there? Our last election was proof that we were so dissatisfied with the status quo that we, essentially, rolled the dice and sent someone to do something different. It’s almost as if we said, “We don’t care what it is, just do something different!”

Right now, we’re acting just like that cartoon that I mentioned earlier. We’ve got two locomotives (although I might call them cabooses) heading toward each other on the same track. 

They have no idea where they are going. All they care about is running into the other and coming out the winner. Of course no one wins. And, that’s no way to run a railroad.