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The GOP hates government, to them a government shutdown is a good thing

On our way to work and school this morning we had a discussion with out children about the government shutdown.  Spurred by this item on NPR, Day 2 Of Government Shutdown Affects Variety Of Workers.

One of them asked, why is it happening?  We tried our best to explain to them that, essentially some adults are throwing a temper tantrum, that is only hurting other people, and not themselves.  We explained that while thousands of federal employees are not working, and that if it continues food for the poor will start to dry up. They saw that as a sad and mean thing to be doing.

Of course, there’s much we didn’t say to them. One is that this is what happens when we allow people who think our government is evil, and want to kill it, have power in our government. We cannot expect people that hate the government and have vowed to destroy it, do anything other then what they’re doing. This is progress for them. When seen through that frame everything they’re doing makes perfect sense. If one tries to see it through the frame of trying to work out a compromise with these people, it is totally confusing.

From The Nation, Government Shutdown Will Hit Federal Worker, Poor American.

The economic impact of a shutdown depends on how long it lasts, but workers and the poor are likely to be hit the hardest. About 800,000 of 2.1 million federal employees will be furloughed, with no guarantee of retroactive pay. “Essential” employees like active-duty service members, scientists posted to the International Space Station, mine inspectors for the Department of Labor, and Secret Service agents will continue to work, many without pay. The members of Congress creating the mess are considered essential, and will receive their paychecks.

Low-income women and children, on the other hand, may not be able to access food and health care. That’s because federal funds will not be available for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food benefits and clinical services. States may have enough cash to continue operations for a few days, but even federal contingency funds “would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Food stamp recipients would still receive their benefits through the SNAP program, but other nutritional programs would shut down.

Several Head Start programs, which have already experienced crippling budget cuts under sequestration, would feel immediate effects and may be unable to offer educational services to children. By late October, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will run out of funds to pay compensation and pension to more than 3.6 million veterans.

The DC area would feel the shutdown most acutely. According to the New York Times the federal government employs about 30 percent of the workers in the District of the Columbia, 20 percent of those in Arlington County, Virginia, and 10 percent in Montgomery County, Maryland. Because of the sequester government workers have already been hit with pay freezes and furloughs, and 330,000 people in the region lost their jobs.

“Our members have already suffered through six days of furloughs this year, we’ve been in a three-year pay freeze and there’s been a constant threat of job loss. It’s been a year of total uncertainty,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union. According to Cox, most of the union’s members make between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. “Federal employees have given enough. We’ve given [billions of] dollars to the federal deficit. It’s time to quit looking to us to be the bargaining chip.”

The District would be legally bound to curtail all of its services, including garbage collection, and to furlough all but essential employees. Frustrated by the lack of budget autonomy in the District, city leaders have made their own plans, which include declaring all workers essential and drafting legislation to pay them with a contingency fund.

Although the shutdown isn’t expected to be catastrophic, as would a default on the national debt (which will happen if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by October 17), failing to fund the government will still cost taxpayers. The shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 cost $1.4 billion, about $2 billion when adjusted for inflation. That figure is probably low, as Ezra Klein points out, because it leaves out the lost value of uncompleted work and revenue lost from actions like shuttering the national parks.

We told our kids they’re acting like children. Actually worse, because they’re adults and they should know better.

Tweet from Sen. Angus King:

And, of course, the fourth estate has let us down again, Shutdown coverage fails Americans.

U.S. news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a “bitterly divided” Congress that “failed to reach agreement” (Washington Post) or “a bitter budget standoff” left unresolved by “rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers” (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.

When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?

The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)

And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations.

But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.

Again, for those that hate government, this is a good thing.  Digby has more, Crazy like foxes, ever heard of the “Williamsburg Accord”?

[UPDATE]: The nine most painful impacts of a government shutdown.


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