Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Shutdown Averted -- At What Cost?

Well, Federal Government workers, contractors, military families and those who depend on revenues from nearby installations can sleep restfully now. The government is again funded -- for a while, anyway. Against a backdrop during the week of Tea Party members chanting "cut it or shut it," much of this dialogue was held as if the government was not run by real people, with real bills to pay and families to care for. These protestors seemed not to care that "government workers" and "government" make this country run day after day, by such duties as keeping the planes in the air, getting supplies to our military, and providing care for our elderly and youngest residents. The EPA does its job of keeping clear air and clean water for both Democrats and Republicans alike, despite the desire of some to diminish its powers. The FDA and food safety resources continue to work for all, legal and undocumented, just to mention a few examples of necessary services provided by "our government." The people who rail against big government often fail to realize the many times each day that they are touched by the good services of hard working civil servants.

The poker game being played out on the Capitol grounds and the White House sometimes seemed more like a tennis match as numbers, proposals and counter-proposals were being batted back and forth along the air waves and with dueling press conferences. The budget promises made by the Tea Party House members indicated that $100 billion dollars would be chopped from the Federal budget with little care given to the details. Democrats came belatedly to these negotiating sessions timidly suggesting abut $30 billion in cuts from some of the issues originally favored by President Obama and their caucuses. The Speaker of the House was said to be urging about $70 billion in cuts, although he held his cards tight and would not quote a number. Unbelievably, services for women's health, which had nothing to do with the budget, were among those being threatened. Democratic women senators, led by Barbara Mikulski and Patty Murray spoke passionately against plans to throw women and their rights under the proverbial bus. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine spoke up also against this proposal, saying it had no place in the budget plans. (The issues, known as riders, were seen as purposely provocative as their Tea Party proponents targeted The Affordable Health Care Act, Planned Parenthood, EPA mandates, NPR funding, and DC initiatives, to mention a few.) Senator Harry Reid finally made a strong speech urging support by unanimous consent -- he almost got it -- Rand Paul voted no.

So back and forth it went. Democrats insisted definitive numbers were in place. This was denied by the other side as social engineering was again brought forward and turned down as irrelevant. After several in-person White House sessions ended, The Washington Post and New York Times both reported that Obama and Biden had to repeatedly remind House Speaker Boehner that a deal had been agreed to and would not be renegotiated. The Speaker was reportedly dealing with those in his own party who did not care for and did not agree with the compromises made. Final numbers indicated that cuts in the 2011 budget finally agreed to, amounted to a total of $38.5 Billion dollars once the final totals were tallied. This was in the total budget of over $3.6 trillion dollars, really just a small sliver. Finally at the midnight hour when the decision to close government was at hand, an agreement was voted on. Speeches were made and all went home, whether satisfied or not. Where was the concern for the single mother working as a clerk in a government office who lived in fear all week that her paycheck would not come next week? Where was the reassurance for the soldier on a battlefield that his loved ones would get their support on time? Could this have been accomplished with out this brinkmanship? Of course it should have been -- these games were unnecessary.

Additionally, the rights of self determination in the District again felt the meddling hand of the Republican House members as the city's right to pay for abortions was removed. Furthermore, DC was made to accept a private school voucher program which could further disrupt public education efforts. Both of these had been in place before during the last time the Republicans controlled Congress.

So at this time, it is not known just which of the small amount allocated to the "discretionary" spending -- meaning non military, non entitlement, non mandatory debt service will be selected for reductions. Could this all have been avoided had the Democrats forced a vote on the 2011 budget in October, of course. But Senate Leader Reid did not want to have to address the threat of a filibuster, so he did not force this vote, when, in fact he controlled the Senate and Democrats were in charge of the House and had passed a budget. The Lame Duck session could have voted on this but it did not. Democrats who would not stand with their party in pushing this through and who had to show their independence allowed this to happen, as did the Republicans who reneged on a previous commitment. President Obama was commended for achieving a consensus which allowed both unemployment benefits and an extension of the Bush Tax cuts, but did not address the budget.

Now, while all are congratulating themselves on this temporary solution, the battle over the raising of the debt ceiling looms. Let's hope these so-called Patriots care more about the security of our finances as a country than they do about their own over heated rhetoric. Let's urge them to act responsibly and raise the $14.3 trillion dollar ceiling without further catastrophes. There is already speculation that the debt ceiling might be filibustered by Rand Paul. Let's all hope not.

Were you worried about a shutdown? How might it have affected your life? Let me hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Sharon, with your assessment. In particular, I am incensed at the shenanigans that they played with the rights of the Government of the District of Columbia to spend its funds as it and its residents wish it to be. The constant meddling by Members of Congress into the day-to-day affairs of the District of Columbia is the primary reason why I recommend to my friends who are moving into the area for a job to live in our state (Maryland) or even to Virginia, but never in DC. As their license plate accurately says, "Taxation Without Representation."


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