Tag Archives: public broadcasting

Government Shutdown Reality Check

26 Feb

Rage ≠ Responsible Government

As most Americans know by now, the budget debate deadlock in Washington could easily lead to a shutdown of the Federal government. If a budget (or continuing resolution) is not passed before Friday, March 4, the shutdown will occur. President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner have all said that they want to keep this from happening. If it does, however, the responsibility will land squarely on the partisan grandstanding of the House.

Sen. Reid and the President have both made it very clear that they will not be blackmailed by the Tea Party minority in the House. The recent budget passed under Boehner’s leadership includes a lot of red meat for the Teabaggist base and not a lot of substantive cuts that indicate a real desire to reform government or reduce deficits (or create jobs, for that matter). The partisan attacks on abortion rights, women’s rights, public broadcasting, and health care reform make very little budgetary difference and create a poison pill that will stop the proposal cold in the Senate. Rather than negotiating in good faith, the House seems bent on creating a train wreck of petulance.

So what would really happen if there is no budget compromise and the Federal government shuts down? Let’s look at some facts:

  • Federal workers would not be paid during the shutdown. They would receive retroactive pay (with no interest) once government is running again. Contractors (all the jobs shoved off the Federal payroll by Reaganite “smartsizing”) get nothing. Members of Congress get full pay and benefits with no delays because their pay is authorized by the Constitution. As so often happens, the more you make, the less you lose.
  • The wars will go on. Funding for active military efforts is exempted. Processing of military benefits claims, however, will freeze. You can fight, but you’d better not leave service or get injured.
  • Federal parks, museums, and other cultural centers will close, depriving all Americans of access to their cultural history and natural beauty.
  • Processing of passport and visa applications and renewals will halt. This will have a major impact not just on vacations that families have already paid for, but will affect business as well.
  • Social Security payments will be made, but new applications and any support functions will be halted.
  • Aid and grant payments to states will be halted, creating even deeper holes in already crippled state budgets.
  • Toxic waste cleanup at over 600 Federally-designated sites will be halted.

Of course, the ripple effect of a shutdown is even more complicated. Everyone knows what it’s like to get back to work after a few days off. It takes time to get caught up. When the whole business of government has to recover at the same time, it could be weeks before things are running smoothly again, even if the shutdown is relatively brief.

And what about those Tea Party priorities? Since the Federal money has already been disbursed, Planned Parenthood will not shut down if the government does, nor will Public Broadcasting. Instead, millions of decent, hard-working civil servants will be furloughed, reducing household spending and injuring American businesses, while House Republicans draw their pay and enjoy their Federal healthcare, abdicating their responsibility to govern. The shutdown is such bad government, in fact that even Michele Bachmann (R – Can’t Find It On A Map) has said it’s a bad idea. You know your leadership strategy is lousy when it crosses the Bachmann line.

How'd that last shutdown work out, Newt?

The last major shutdown was something of a standoff between then President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich. At the end of the day, the Republican congress that forced the standoff came out very badly indeed. Gingrich’s infamous petulance cost him credibility and resulted in national ridicule.

If this House chooses to paralyze the country again, choosing misguided principle over hard facts, the blame falls squarely on Boehner and his Tea Party cohorts. The President and the Senate must not make their tax cuts mistake again and should continue to stand firm on a responsible budget. Compromise with fiscal terrorists? I prefer not to.

(Some research for this story done with thanks to The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, CNN, and The Huffington Post. I was initially inspired by the lighthearted but hard-hitting Feb. 25 Tom the Dancing Bug strip.)

Reading the Tea Leaves: We’re In for Two Years of Nasty Craziness

19 Feb

Who's pouring this bitter tea?

Last November, American voters started brewing a strong pot of tea. It has finished steeping and officials elected by the Tea Party are starting to pour their brew. Let’s take a quick look at what they are serving up.

  • The budget proposed by the Republican-controlled house savages women’s rights, stripping funding from Planned Parenthood and defunding Title X.
  • That same budget contains a provision defunding health care reform, sacrificing the elderly, the young, and the poor.
  • Just for fun, the budget also slashes all support for public broadcasting. Of course they defeated an amendment that would have ended military funding for NASCAR.
  • Republicans in Virginia have launched an aggressive campaign to roll back gay rights in that commonwealth.
  • Scott Walker, the TP Governor of Wisconsin is working with the Republican-controlled legislature to crush organizing rights and basic benefits for public employees.
  • Florida Governor and Medicare scam criminal Rick Scott has refused federal funding for high-speed rail because it is funded by President Obama’s stimulus program. (That’s okay, Rick, Oregon will gladly take more money for safe, efficient travel.)

While the Tea Party prides itself on being a grass-roots movement (funded by corporate interests), there is a basic set of principles that supporters tend to list as their platform:

  • Individual freedoms (from women’s rights, gay rights, efficient transportation, collective bargaining, and non-corporate media)
  • Personal responsibility (to pay for congressional health care while losing one’s own)
  • Returning political power to the states and the people (power to spend time and money fighting health care in court and crush workers)

Cheers to the Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate, Harry Reid, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and other who are speaking out and taking action against this horrific agenda.

The Tea Partiers press their agenda despite substantial public objection to most of the specifics, not wishing to be troubled with facts. The rest of America should be terrified about what’s coming next.

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