How concerned are Middle Tennessee residents regarding the current federal government shutdown that has closed Rutherford County’s Stones River National Battlefield Cemetery and other programs throughout America?
Multiple phone lines stayed lit up as people voiced strong concerns and opinions during a recent live “Morning Line” talk show on Nashville TV Channel 5. The show featured Middle MTSU political science professor Kent Syler with Morning Line host Janet Kim.
They took calls ranging from Social Security disability payments concerns, to lack of money for military funerals for fallen soldiers to why parks are closed during the current shutdown of government services.
“We couldn’t get all the phone calls on the air,” shared Morning Line producer Marielena Romas, an MTSU Mass Communications College graduate.
“The longer this shutdown goes, the more critical it will be felt throughout the nation,” Murfreesboro resident Syler said in responding to “Joe,” who made the first live phone call to the TV station.
“This shutdown is very disgusting,” Joe said with obvious consternation. “They’re not acting like grown men in Washington.”
“Joe’s point of view is being shared by a lot of Americans,” noted Syler, who served for 26 years as chief-of-staff for retired U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Murfreesboro. “There’s no negotiations now, where in the past, people like (republican) President (Ronald) Reagan agreed that 80 percent of something was better than nothing.”
Caller “Greg” voiced anger about the closure of the popular Smokey Mountain National Park in East Tennessee.
“People from throughout the world come to visit as tourists, so I’m hoping government officials will try to help keep the parks open and not hurt out state’s tourism economy and jobs,” the caller added. “Closing the parks is sticking it to the people. I don’t feel I should have to pay my $300 in taxes this week for government services I’m not receiving.”
Caller “Mike” recommended “term limits” for people elected to Congress.
“Term limits have been debated a long, long time,” Syler responded. “But, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Some people feel that congressman being elected every two years is a form of term limits, although it’s true most incumbents are re-elected over challengers.”
U.S. senators are elected to 6-year terms.
“Our phone lines are lit up with callers,” observed Kim during the first 15-minute televised segment.
One female caller suggested that President Barack Obama’s “arrogance is the problem” in Washington.”
Syler was also asked to explain “the anger” in Washington between political parties.
“The Republican Party is at a crossroads about how to deal with the ultra right wing known as the Tea Party,” Syler noted.
Caller “Charles” credited “racism” against having a black man as president.
“They resent having a black man making history as a U.S. president,” Charles charged. “They don’t want to give any credit or do any negotiating with this black man.”
“I hope this is not the case,” Syler shared. “My hope it’s more political and policy based, and not racially based.”
Syler shared polling statistics indicating “health care” as the current No. 1 concern among Americans.
“There’s so much confusion about the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare,” Syler added. “And it’s true that some feel government is too big, and some who feel government is not big enough. It’s also true that Americans don’t like being told what to do.”
Caller “Angela” wanted to know how people on disability are going to survive.
“If the shutdown ends quickly, I don’t think Social Security checks will be affected,” Syler responded. “U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) recently spoke to the Murfreesboro Rotary Club, and he stated clearly his belief that the shutdown was not a good strategy for his party.”
Syler shared demographics indicating that most urban areas in America are “blue” for democrats, and rural areas are predominantly “red” for republican areas.
“When we had Russia for a common enemy in the Cold War, Americans were more united,” Syler added.