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By Christopher Young, MPSA 2015

Over the last few days, many American citizens have started to feel the impact of the government shutdown. More specifically, Head Start has lost funding and grant money for 23 local programs – nationally effecting 19,000 children across America. For years, Head Start has provided many low income families with opportunities that they otherwise would not have access to.

Particularly, research has shown that Head Start programs provide children with greater cognitive development and advanced reading skills, leading to favorable long-term effects, such as higher graduation rates. Economically, Head Start has shown increased earning rates, higher employment rates, and decreased welfare dependency for its participants. Head Start also has shown reduced childhood obesity, and is more likely to provide immunizations, opposed to those who do not attend preschool. Finally, Head Start has shown to lowers crime rates, and Head Start children are significantly less likely to commit a crime than siblings who did not participate.

To put a human face on this, if Head Start shuts down, it will likely compromise many single mothers, forcing them to choose between childcare and work. As a result, many poor, single-parent families will be left vulnerable, without the necessary resources to effectively provide for their families.

Whether democrat or republican, publicly elected officials need to remember the human consequences of their decisions. Over the last week, many pundits have blamed gerrymandering, increasing diversity, geographic divides, and media bias in an attempt to explain the government shutdown. While these issues play a role, few commentators have mentioned the lack of empathy currently present in our elected officials.

More than ever, it is time we that re-frame our public debates. No longer shall we be limited to left/right, democrat/republican, urban/rural, rich/poor, or progressive/conservative paradigms. That’s far too limiting, and does little to tackle the real obstacles that many Americans endure every day. Rather than continue the status quo, it’s time that politicians become risky, and dare to take a morally superior stance. Simply put, our only divide should be between right or wrong, and it’s time that we hold our politicians accountable.

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