Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shut Down!

As you should be aware the Federal government officially shut down at 12:00 AM this morning. We have now gone nearly an entire day without any progress being made. The politicians still got paid and Obamacare enrollment still happened but many people found themselves with no job to go to and no paycheck to be had. This is our government at work.

While the Democrats keep saying the Republicans are at fault and the Republicans keep saying the Democrats are at fault I think we all have to come to the realization that this was a combined failure. On the good side, this may be the most decisive bipartisan effort in Washington in a long time but it also means that we are paying for what has become the epitome of ineffective government. This is what happens when the best interests of the people are a secondary concern to the egos of elected officials.

There are far reaching effects beyond the confines of Capital Hill that, in some shape or form, could impact all of us. CBSnews.com put out a pretty good list soon after midnight to break down the government breakdown:

Air Travel: Federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety rules.

International Travel: The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.

Benefit Payments: Social Security and Medicare benefits would keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits would still go out.

Federal Courts: Federal courts would continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard.

Mail: Deliveries would continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

Recreation: All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo in Washington. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. Among the visitor centers that would be closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Alcatraz Island near San Francisco.

Health: New patients would not be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted and some studies would be delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks such as the flu or that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.

Food Safety: The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls, but would suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.

Head Start: A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time, more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It's unclear if they would continue serving children.

Food Assistance: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children. School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.

Taxes: Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it would suspend all audits. Got questions? Sorry, the IRS says taxpayer services, including toll-free help lines, would be shut as well.

Loans: Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-insured mortgages could face delays. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, would still approve single-family loans, but with delays. Multi-family mortgage approvals would be suspended. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended.

Science: NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane Center would continue to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey would be halted.

Homeland Security: The majority of the Department of Homeland Security's employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country's borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.

Military: The military's 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees would be furloughed.

Prisons: All 116 federal prisons would remain open, and criminal litigation would proceed.

Veterans Services: Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA's health programs. Veterans would still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators would still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits. But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.

Work Safety: Federal occupational safety and health inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

However, this is just about all the neutral news coming out of the mouths of the media regarding this issue. Some coverage has been outright biased (MSNBC) while other reports ‘talk to the people’ who all seem to place the blame squarely on Congress. I agree that they are to blame, both sides of the aisle, but so is the rest of the federal government at this point. By the way, all of you ranting on Facebook and Twitter are not helping the situation either. In fact, it's getting so bad on social media that you should all run for office. 

This is the 17th shut down of the federal government since 1976. Fault has been assigned to each of the parties at any given instance but why don’t we finally take a look at the situation and realize that this is, and has always been, a bipartisan clusterf**k. This will blow over like the legislative flatulence that it is and life will go on just like it did the previous 16 times. Just don’t expect anything to get resolved and remember that there is a reason why we hold elections.

To sum up the current state of Washington politics I will borrow a technical acronym from the military… SNAFU!