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Young politicos: Shutdown ‘frustrating,’ embarrassing

Two weeks into the U.S. government shutdown, young politicos spanning both sides of the spectrum say they are sick of watching gridlock paralyze Capitol Hill.
With every day that passes since the shutdown began Oct. 1, college students say they are losing sympathy for Congress.
The U.S. is at risk of defaulting on its debt if lawmakers cannot seal a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, a threat that one leading investor, Blackstone Group President Tony James, said would lead to an "Armageddon."
"It's amazing to me that the richest and most powerful country in the world can see its government become a laughingstock just because it can't agree on how to fund itself," says Alex Hoffman, president of the American University College Democrats and a junior at American University.
The stalemate gripping Capitol Hill has been especially disheartening given the pressing issues Millennials are facing, says Alex Smith, national chair of the College Republican National Committee.
"Young people are frustrated. They are arguably in one of the worst positions in the country right now with unemployment being as high as it is and three in 10 Millnennials moving back in with their parents … [so] they see dysfunction in Capitol Hill and it's frustrating to them," she says.
The prolonged stalemate on Capitol Hill has caught the attention of college students who are usually apolitical, said Taylor Barnard, president of the College Democrats of America and a senior at Tufts University.
"My politically active friends and I are always talking about this kind of thing, but I've noticed myself having conversations about the shutdown with a lot of friends who aren't particularly political. They are all very concerned about the current state of our government," Barnard says.
Yet college students run the gamut when asked to identify who is to blame for the shutdown.
Kyle Ezzedine, a senior at Cornell University and the chair of the Cornell Republicans, says he sees both parties digging their heels in for drama's sake.
"At first, I thought it was unnecessary and needlessly damaging to government workers and our nation as a whole. Now, I still believe it's unnecessary, but it's become even more of an orchestrated political event for both sides to 'benefit' from," Ezzedine says.
Other students think House Republicans have come up with a number of different proposals to resolve the stalemate.
It is President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid,D-Nev., who are preventing Congress from returning to work — and even hurting college students with their refusal to back away from Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act, Smith says.
"I think it's time for the president and Sen. Reid to start compromising and giving and taking," she said. "Republicans are trying to stop the implementation of a health care law that is going to be a disaster, and they're working to make sure that this generation isn't further indebted."
Barnard disagreed, expressing his disbelief that some House Republicans have held the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law in March 2010 — hostage throughout shutdown negotiations.
"College students recognize that Republicans bent on dismantling the ACA have led us to this point," Barnard says. "The law was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and implemented across the nation. Shutting down the government over this is clearly political posturing and a ploy on the part of Tea Party Republicans."
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Regardless of who is at fault for the prolonged shutdown, students says they hope their peers voice their concerns to legislators.
It is important to get the message across to Congress that refusals to compromise are unacceptable, Hoffman says.
"I think the most important thing is for students to be reaching out to their representatives, especially if they're part of the group that's holding the government hostage. A lot of these guys think they're representing the will of their constituents by 'standing their ground' on spending or Obamacare, but that just isn't the case," Hoffman says.
Smith had a more specific group in mind for students to contact.
"I would encourage my peers to be calling upon Senate Democrats right now and asking them to compromise with Republicans, asking them to recognize that the health care law has been disastrous in its implementation, and that it has very real and very severe consequences for young people," she says.
Akane Otani is a senior at Cornell University.

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