Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown?

So, for everyone living in and around Washington, DC or who has a loved one working in a government agency, you've probably heard about the potential government shutdown.

Most people ask two questions: why is it happening and how is it going to affect us?

The why is easy: Freshmen Republican/Tea Party Congressmen (read right-wing conservatives) are butting heads with the Democratic house and President over the federal budget. The Rebublican's biggest worry is cutting the budget, abortion and EPA regulations (including emissions standards). The Democrat's biggest worry is cutting the DOD budget instead of social programs, continuing to fund women's health, and keeping environmental regulations that impact respiratory health in place. In other words, they can't agree on where to cut funding. Republicans won't budge on the Planned Parenthood (abortion v. women's health) issue, because all they see is their abortion and family planning services instead of looking at the broader pictures which admittedly includes those services but also includes preventative care for women of other types (cancer screening, gynecological exams, etc.). They also want to decrease the scope of the government, hence their desire to cut social spending and EPA regulations.

Democrats on the other hand don't want to cut social spending and would rather cut most of the deficit from the DoD budget. The Pentagon receives over half of the yearly federal budget (therefore the easiest place to cut funding). Some of that money goes to paying our soldiers, something I'm very much in favor of. Other money goes towards Research and Development and the production of up-to-date weapons systems, again realistically I don't have a problem with this, although I do have problems with war in general so idealistic I guess I oppose this. However, another large portion goes towards making defunct weapons systems that then get sold to our allies (and potential future enemies)... I think that's a problem. Sorry, I'm making this personal. I just meant it to be informative. They also see Planned Parenthood as a way for poor women to get preventative health care. EPA regulations are in place for multiple reasons, the biggest human impact is respiratory illnesses which tend to rise in countries that have a lot of air pollution. There are probably many smaller issues, but these are the big reasons being touted on both sides as to why they cannot come to a consensus.

Personally I think it's all bullshit... the Democrats seem to be budging on the budget cut issues but not on EPA regs and PP, Republicans don't seem to be budging at all. There has to be some compromise in the middle! My biggest pet peeve is that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority leader still find time to talk to the press. Someone should lock them all in a small room and make them fight it out until they come to an agreement. No food, no water, and certainly no pay.

What this means for the rest of us: Well, the most real aspect is that 800,000 people are going to temporarily lose their jobs. All federally funded agencies and portions of agencies will shut down. Congressmen, the President, and their staff will continue to get paid (big baloney, if you ask me- although to be fair, they may refuse that pay on principle). The animals at the National Zoo will continue to get fed. The Post Office will remain open, although their passport services will be suspended. The IRS will shut down, but taxes are still due by April 18th, deductions will still be made from accounts if you owe the IRS money, and tax refunds will still happen if you file electronically. Some portions of various agencies will remain open if they are funded by something other than federal appropriations (interest income, private money, etc.). Federally funded libraries, museums, and trash collection will shut down. Schools apparently will not. Whether or not those furloughed employees will receive backpay once this is all figured out is still up in the air.

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