Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Shutdown: What It Is, What It Ain’t

This past midnight, the United States government not only did not have an annual budget (and has been without one for the last four years), but also lacked what is called a "continuing resolution," that to which Congress and the President agree as a means of operating at "present spending levels" for a specified time of up to, but not usually, a fiscal year. This short-term fix has kept the nation's government operating for at least four years. But after continued parlays from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and (when it comes down to it) both sides of the political aisle, the luck ran out.

This morning, all federal employees deemed "non-essential" were required to spend up to four hours on duty for "shutdown operations," after which they were sent home. They will get paid for those hours -- eventually. Once a budget or continuing resolution is passed and signed by the President, all employees will return to duty. Whether they will be paid retroactively is a separate decision made by the Congress. In the past, they have done so, but the present general sentiment indicates that they most likely will not. (Relax, all 535 elected members of the legislature who have been dicking around for the past four years are considered "essential." They will get paid on time, if they have to run the presses and print more money by themselves.)

Now, I know what at least one of you is thinking: “Dude, we never know the difference when [begin dripping sarcasm] non-essential workers [end dripping sarcasm] are sent home for a few days, or a few weeks, so, like, um, why should we care? You should suffer just like the rest of us.” My initial response would be thus:

You're an idiot.

That's right. You merely think there's no difference, as long as your Aunt Minnie still gets her Social Security check on the same date every month, and you yourself are not otherwise inconvenienced. Tell that to the war veterans who literally tore down the fences blocking the World War II Memorial today (with the help of at least two members of Congress), because all national parks are now closed. You gotta hand it to them; at this age, these old grunts haven't lost their touch. Meanwhile, dear old Auntie will get her check -- eventually. You see, the money may come from a separate fund, but most of the people responsible for processing it have just been sent home, you big dummy! So you may have to float the old gal a few hundred until the unpaid masses yearning to assist you get to return to their jobs and do just that.

Now that I've got what's left of your attention, let's take a closer look at that, using big words that you'll have to read slowly, to see how some of you will be inconvenienced.

FINANCIAL SERVICES. The Small Business Administration will stop making loans, federal home loan guarantees will likely go on hold, and students applying for financial aid could also see delays and backlogs in applications.

HEALTH CARE. The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients and delay or stop clinical trials. Medicare and the Veterans administration will continue paying out benefits, but new filers could face delays and doctors and hospitals may also have to wait for reimbursements.

PUBLIC SAFETY. The Environmental Protection Agency would stop reviewing environmental impact statements and food inspectors would stop conducting workplace inspections unless there is an imminent danger. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms could stop processing applications for permits.

SECURITY AND TRAVEL. The Department of Homeland Security would suspend the E-Verify program, which helps businesses determine the eligibility of employees, creating hiring delays. The State Department will also likely halt new passport and visa applications.

PARKS AND RECREATION. The National Park Service sites and the Smithsonian Institution will be shutdown. During the 1990s, 368 sites closed down and approximately 7 million visitors denied entry.

DISASTER RELIEF. In preparation for a potential shutdown, the Utah National Guard is holding off on sending a team to help rebuild areas in Colorado devastated by massive floods last week. More National Guard engineers are desperately needed to repair major roads and bridges in Colorado. Roughly 240 Colorado National Guardsmen currently working on flood missions are also in danger of losing funding.

NUTRITION FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN. Though food stamps will still be available in the event of a shutdown, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, a service meant to help new and expecting mothers and their young children get nutritious foods, will not. If a shutdown lasts for more than a few days, the roughly 9 million Americans who rely on WIC could see their assistance dry up, leaving them food-insecure.

The article at ThinkProgress.org couldn't be more biased against Republicans for allegedly causing this, as the party that didn't control both houses of Congress when the no-budget scenario began, doesn't have one of its own for President who won't sign it without that which most Americans do not want. and didn't have one of its own say that "you'll have to pass the bill to see what's in it." All that aside, the above is a pretty good indication of what you will be missing until this is straightened out. Granted, some things will be missed by some people more than others. But a great portion of the population will be at least mildly inconvenienced while its tax dollars are not at work, including anyone with a government contract that's waiting for their business to be conducted smoothly. That last one will hurt the small businesses the most.

All the crybabies who think they can get along without the government, still want to feed from the federal trough. They are used to it. The most ardent Tea Party member wants their Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They paid for them, right? Well, yes, but you also pay for people to make sure you get them. You also pay for the federal government to swoop down on your little hamlet if there's a tornado, even before the governor of your state can ask them, which is required.

And last but not least, federal employees pay for the same things, with taxes, just as you do. They often get much of the blame for that over which they have absolutely no control. This brings up one more subject. Salaries and benefits are a substantial percentage of a state budget, but only a fraction of a percent of the federal budget. The savings to the federal debt incurred by three years without a cost-of-living increase for federal employees, will amount to about one-fourth of one percent. The woman who once told me -- in full view of Twitter, of all places -- that federal workers should suffer like others do is an ill-informed little twit! What possible benefit will come from wishing ill on people who try to make an honest living? If she can think of one, she can tell it to Federal defense worker Rob Merritt, a husband and father of four, who would have gone bankrupt from a furlough due to medical bills from heart surgery.

(As for me, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a contingency in place, so there will be no "tin cup rattle" campaign at this venue anytime soon, at least not to pay my mortgage.)

What can you do about what's wrong with Washington? Hold your elected representatives accountable. Quit re-electing the same bozos every time they want to keep their miserable job with exorbant benefits, and exemption from many of the laws they pass (including the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare"). That goes ditto for you idiot Republicans in Arizona who keep sending that geezer John McCain back to Washington. For pity's sake, stop making that poor old man think he's indispensable, and let him retire in peace.

That, and quit crying to me about it. We get the leaders we ask for, the leaders we deserve. That means you, too, buckaroo!
 

4 comments:

bob cratchit said...

And now thousands of federal workers (me too) are shut out of their jobs, without pay for God knows how long. Meanwhile the ACA remains funded and fully operational. Talk about an excersize in futiity. Contractors (that other federal beneficiary) are next.

David L Alexander said...

bob:

The programs brought about by the Affordable Care Act would ostensibly be as "essential" as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and any other entitlement program made so under the law. Yes, the circumstances that brought it about are absurd, but that is how it is justified.

bob cratchit said...

RE: Just to clarify, I'm not complaining about the law itself bad as it is, just that I do not see what good it did for the House to add that condition onto the CR. It achieved nothing except but a strain on an already strained federal workforce. The self serving tripe in congress should be the ones losing their wages.

David L Alexander said...

bob:

Some have agreed to give up their wages from the period of the shutdown. I suggest you watch who does and who does not, and you will find out what some people are made of.