Saturday, April 9, 2011

Countdown to shutdown

Let's be honest, I'm not as informed as I could be about the happenings in the country. I read the newspaper every so often, and I glance over the top news on the Yahoo homepage pretty often, but other than that I kinda keep out of the loop. I also could care less about politics. I feel like the whole process is just a bunch of people pushing personal agendas, fighting rather than finding solutions, and a whole lot of unnecessary bother. Yes, that's an over generalization, but to a large extent it's true. Considering my civic involvement--or lack thereof--it should come as no surprise that I heard about the government shutdown the day before it was going to happen. I was surprised that congress has gotten to the point that they would rather shut down everything, other than essential government functions, rather than come to a compromise. No matter which political affiliation you have, this is just ridiculous.

In case you're wondering, a government shutdown doesn't mean everything gets shut down, which is reassuring, but still, shutting down the SBA, passport operations, national parks, the Federal Housing Association, not to mention postponing the payment of all the soldiers is still a big deal. If the government were to shut down 800,000 federal employees would be affected. They would go without pay for however long the shutdown lasted. Some, but not all would be eligible for unemployment benefits, and unless congress approved it, those employees wouldn't receive back pay for the time they weren't working. Ridiculous? I think so.

The shutdown was a result of the fact that congress can't come up with a plan to cut federal spending and lower the national debt. Both parties obviously agree that we need to stop spending so much, but they disagreed on which programs to cut. Republican's wanted to cut back on social welfare programs, and Democrats wanted to limit tax breaks and cut back on some programs for businesses. I don't know much about congress and I definitely don't know much about what it must be like to be a congressman. Who knows, it's probably stressful to have a large amount of people relying on your decisions. But regardless of all that, is a shutdown the most sensible solution for a failure to compromise? Has our two party system divided us so badly that 800,000 people's livelihoods would be compromised for an indefinite amount of time?

Luckily no shutdown was necessary. Late Friday night, just a few hours before the deadline, congress came to an agreement. In 2011 there will be 38 billion dollars worth of cuts made. Had they not made a compromise we would have experienced the first shutdown in fifteen years. Crisis averted, for now. In 2012 they're going to discuss whether or not they'll raise the debt ceiling and then we'll get to go through this all over again.

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