By Gery L. Deer
Deer In Headlines
On Monday, July 25, in his seventh prime time televised address to the nation, President Obama pleaded with Americans to pressure their congressional representatives to make a deal on the debt ceiling. While Mr. Obama argues against the GOP plans or any sort of a short term solution, Speaker of the House John Boehner is resolute against handing the president, what he called, “Another blank check.”
Both parties are using fear to motivate the public to demand action. But Americans who rely on federal funds to survive watch helplessly as Washington continues to bicker with itself and worry about how they will eat and pay the bills if there is a government shutdown amidst an already sluggish economy.
According to a CBS poll taken earlier this week, 79 percent of Americans are angry about the way the debt problem is being handled. There is also a great deal of speculation and misinformation about exactly what will happen should an agreement fail to be reached by the August 2nd deadline.
During the Clinton administration, three different government shut downs occurred, the longest lasting 21 days. Each resulted in the forced furlough of more than 800,000 federal employees. For information about how a federal closure would affect specific programs, contact the individual department directly. In the meantime, here are some examples of how a shutdown might affect the average citizen.
Many agencies like the CDC and National Institute of Health will scale back operations during the shutdown, with only essential personnel staying on the job. Law enforcement, public safety and national security employees would remain working, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the national military. Some other agencies, not thoroughly funded by the government, like the postal service, would continue to operate as well.
Many employees of those departments may not be paid during that time, however. No factual information was available on which agencies will continue to issue paychecks, but one congressional aid told The Washington Post that military personnel would likely receive a paycheck during the first week of any shutdown, but possibly nothing after that.
For employees of government contractors the situation is even more ambiguous. Whether contractors work or get paid will depend on the employer, the specific area of the government being serviced and the projects involved. Workers in these situations should contact their company’s human resourced department for information.
Planning a summer vacation to a national park over the next few weeks? It might be a good idea to look into alternatives. If federal dollars are cut off, any national park that requires a Forest Service employee to be on site would be closed. Locally, that would include the Wright Brothers sites throughout theMiamiValleywhich are part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Officials are being tight-lipped about the full impact of the shutdown. Those who are talking agree that many civilian employees will be forced to take an unpaid vacation and it is unlikely that pay will be made retroactively once things start up again.
In 2010, an unprecedented number of people voted for a divided government – and sometimes it has merit. But usually such a total split of ideology just brings out the worst in politicians and leaves important issues mired in partisan rhetoric.
Possibly more maddening is the idea that the Washington egos in charge of this mess are mostly people of wealth who do not have to worry about where their next paycheck will come from. Given their childlike behavior and inability to compromise for the good of the people, come November of 2012, the most sensible actions that Americans can take is to show them the door.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist based in Jamestown, Ohio. Read more at http://www.deerinheadlines.com.