Making sense of the shutdown

Thursday - 10/17/2013, 2:00am EDT

Lots of people are still trying to understand why and how the government shutdown happened and to get a handle on the flap over raising the debt ceiling. Is this really the way to run a world-class, world-wide operation like the U.S. government? Actually, it's amazingly simple. Really:

As often as not, you have to go back to basics. Temporarily suspend belief.

So, I had dinner Tuesday night with my daughter and her family, which includes a 14-year old girl and 12-year-old boy. They just learned that their father, a government contractor, has been furloughed. Indefinitely and without pay, for sure. He's taking it in stride, but is clearly worried nevertheless.

My granddaughter, Madison, asked why the government was shut down? Was it because of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act)? she asked. I explained it was sort of like that, at first. But that it has evolved. Complicated stuff. Trust the statesmen to fix it. These people know what they are doing!

Next.

Grandson Tyler asked if the government is shut down, how is it that some people are still working. I said yes, some people are working, some aren't. Depends on who is declared exempt, and the crisis du jour. Some furloughed FEMA and NOAA people, who were furloughed, were called back for a hurricane. Then sent home again. See?

Another example. The government is nearly broke so it shut down much of the Internal Revenue Service — Uncle Sam's premier money-maker. Some IRS workers are exempt. Others not. Try getting information, a refund or getting a lien lifted. Not gonna happen. But why some and not others, he asked. Complicated says I, please pass the salt!

Next.

Why are the Democrats and Republicans always fighting? Sometimes taking positions they opposed a short time ago.

Answer: Under the new self-imposed guidelines, whenever the opposing sides reach a tentative agreement, somebody calls a balk. Either Republicans in the House or Democrats in the Senate walk away from the deal. Or ask for more. When you do that, it is called dealing-from-a-position-of strength. When the other side does it, it is called back-stabbing! As long as you understand the rules it makes sense!

Many, if not most, politicians now say that the shutdown was stupid and is costing more than it saves. The hard part is understanding how it happened, since so many politicians now say it was a really dumb idea.

Next.

Why is the U.S. borrowing money? What are we, Greece? The short answer is that we are borrowing because we are nearly broke. Duh!

We've almost run out of the cash that other, less affluent countries (like China and Japan) loaned us so we can continue to buy (on credit) those great big-screen TVs, phones and cars they make.

The rationale for raising the debt ceiling goes like this:

  • If your party controls the White House you say it should be a stand- alone issue and can't be hostage to partisan politics.

  • If your party is out of power, voting to raise the debt ceiling allows us to go deeper in debt, unless and until other, sometimes unrelated issues, are settled too.
Next.

If the government is shutdown, how can Congress operate? That's government too, right? Good question. Congress and the White House continue to operate because, without the wisdom and statesmanship they have shown so far, we would be in a real mess, correct? They are, in a sense, our only hope.

Gulp!

This all made sense at the beginning. But upon reflection, we're going to need a little time to rethink some things.

Meantime, a childlike question for the Utah Democratic party chairman who recently referred to Washington, D.C., as a "cesspool." If he's right, and many think he is, we could certainly use a little help here. First, we need to find out where those people who are making this a cesspool come from. Who elected them, right? Also, if this is a cesspool, we could probably use some real lifeguards, not the kind who kneel on our chests while they go through our belongings.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, according to a new scientific study. The cookies activated the same neurons in the brains of lab mice — the "pleasure center" — as the illegal drug, according to researchers.

(Source: Daily Mail)


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