Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

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Martin Blank
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Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by Martin Blank » Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:22 pm

I've seen a picture fluttering around various sites mentioning that 800,000 non-essential federal employees have been furloughed and then asking why there are 800,000 "non-essential" employees. I think in the zeal of some people to point out waste, they look for words that mean one thing in their minds and something very different in practical use.
  • Non-essential staff include those not part of the Constitution and those required for public safety or to protect federal assets.
  • NASA has furloughed 97% of its workers, leaving only enough to keep the ISS safe, operate mission-critical gear like uplinks, and secure facilities. Experiments have stopped, and most of the rover activities on Mars have been suspended.
  • The Reserves and National Guard have curtailed operations because most of their funding comes from the federal budget.
  • No unemployment numbers have been published for September because the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been furloughed.
  • No enforcement of sanctions against Iran or Syria are being monitored because the investigators have been furloughed.
  • The Parks Service, of course, has closed parks and monuments across the country. While an exception has been granted for World War II veterans to visit their memorial, general tourists are not allowed in. (This led to the laughable exchange between Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-TX, and a Park Service Ranger.) The parks closure has been effectively worse, as one of the only two passable roads into Estes, CO, following flooding a few weeks ago runs through a now-closed national park.
I get that a lot of changes need to happen. I back the idea of making the federal government much smaller. But taking one term--"non-essential"--and applying one's own belief to it without bothering to get even a summary of the story behind it shows how some people aren't interested in reality but just in their own view of political perfection. Not all of the federal government is useless, even if the duties are not explicitly in the Constitution. And even if there were 800,000 employees who could be cut, dropping them in one fell swoop isn't going to help anything. There's an economy still struggling to recover, and 800,000 more people in the unemployment lines, competing for jobs that often aren't there, doesn't help the situation. Any ramp-down has to happen much more gradually and rely heavily on attrition and not just cuts. Otherwise, we shoot ourselves in the foot that we need to help climb out of the mess.
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Re: Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by ampersand » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:58 am

This is about a faction of the Republican party embarrassed how the rest of the Republican party "lost" when this happened in 2005. This is also about a Democratic side embarrassed that, as Pelosi supposedly put it, "there's no more fat to be cut."I've even read an interesting article in the New Yorker that a Spanish political analyst believes this is the fate of all presidential government systems because the voters can not distinguish between who they want for the two branches.

Frankly, I'm rather embarrassed about a note that speculated when an Alaskan meteorological bulletin was released about their reason behind a forecast, hidden in the missive was a code phrase: "Please Pay Us."

This is a symptom of a far larger problem where the political process has evolved to a point where thanks to state redistricting processes, fewer districts are likely to change Congressmen regardless what end up happening. And we've been through them enough to feel this time, the result will be no different: a last moment compromise kicks the process down another few months and they'll be at it one more time. No change, no budget, no solution, just more gamesmanship between two parties where this isn't just ideology --- it's personal.

There's been anger, but no panic from either the people or the Markets. Because it's all been done before. I think there will be no change until October 18, and then you'll see panic.

I also wonder if because some of the effects of the sequester seemed to be viewed as positive, we'll see an increased temptation to continue this shutdown for much longer than after the debt ceiling. US Bond rates haven't changed because Bondholders believe the Treasury has a plan, that based on similar situations in other countries. Whether the Treasury can not as the Treasury claims remains to be seen, but the plan goes something like this: you pay your debt interest (so that all interested in buying Treasury bonds can see you're technically not in default, even if the payments are "late"), then the military (wouldn't want a military coup), and then the elderly (because they are the ones most likely to vote and most likely to let politicians continue in office).

This is a complete mess, I agree. I just don't see when the crisis ends and the work to find a permanent solution begins.

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Re: Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by FirebirdNC » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:29 pm

For the last 2 years my home area has been hit by hurricanes and road closures. This year instead of a hurricane we were hit by the government. A huge part of the business here is based on beach fishing and charter fishing and general beach going. All of the ramps and beach access have been closed by the NPS. One of the largest marinas on the island leases their land from the NPS and they have been closed down with none of the 30 charter boats allowed to use the marina. These are not government employees but rather private citizens who like me live pay check to pay check that are out of a job until the government gets itself together.

I have heard from several people that NPS personnel were told to "make things uncomfortable" for people living here. I guess the plan is to push people to the point where they will accept the government giving itself another free pass just to get the beaches open and not solve anything. I have friends in the NPS here and they are unsure if they will be getting back pay after the furlough but for now are keeping their fingers crossed. It is a mess with no one shot solution.
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Re: Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by The Cid » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:09 pm

FirebirdNC wrote:I have heard from several people that NPS personnel were told to "make things uncomfortable" for people living here.
If anyone still thinks any elected official is looking out for the people and wants to improve America's situation in any way, read that line again. We've been betrayed and sold. Every last one of us.
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Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by Deacon » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:17 pm

I sincerely hope that this experience awakens people to the level of authority we've granted the federal government over freedoms we've surrendered in the name of convenience. That the federal government would spend the extra money during a "shutdown" out of spite to beef up law enforcement and coast guard patrols just to tell people they're not allowed to take their boats on the open ocean (Florida), to evict people from their private homes on Lake Mead, to ban people driving by Mount Rushmore from looking at the monument, to ban people from walking up to the WWII memorial, to disallow people in Hatteras from using their own marina...

Screw the Republicans and Democrats. It's time for a Libertarian uprising. Let's introduce a proper 3rd Party into the mix, this time arguing not over how government should control your lives but against unnecessary government control in the first place. Government does have its place and role to play. But when in doubt, err on the side of freedom.
The follies which a man regrets the most in his life are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity. - Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men, 1922

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Martin Blank
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Re: Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by Martin Blank » Mon Oct 07, 2013 2:33 am

I'm not completely against it, Deacon, but every Libertarian I've seen run for office seems to want to do massive cuts right off the bat. Come to me with someone who has a libertarian goal to be reached 20 years from now (and who also has an actual grasp on world politics), and I might be more inclined to vote for them.

For now, I think that ultimately the Republicans are risking their stakes in both houses of Congress. Boehner didn't want this, at least not at this point, but was forced into it by a vocal minority of the party. It opens the possibility of a default, and while I'm sure the Treasury can stave it off for a few days, particularly if part of the government is shut down and spending requirements aren't as high, there is still spending not immediately affected by the lack of budget or other fiscal approval, and I expect that it still exceeds what comes in through taxes.

Republicans are shouldering more of the blame based on polls, and in the last few days, that blame level seems to have ticked up a few points to around the 45% mark. If they get to the 50% mark not including those blaming both sides (it's around 65% or so with that factor), they may expect their filibuster capability in the Senate to diminish and they could lose their House majority altogether, currently at 232 out of 435 seats. Three seats are currently vacant, one of them formerly held by a Democrat, so a shift of 18 seats from their nominal 234 would see Democrats take control. That's not inconceivable even for a mid-term election.
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Re: Government shutdown and "non-essential" employees

Post by ampersand » Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:18 pm

I read where Glenn Beck is claiming only 15% of the federal government's functions are actually shut-down right now. Anyone can confirm this?

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