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Posts Tagged ‘shutdown’

Reduce spending, the deficit and congress

In Economy, Education, Jobs, National News, Opinion, Politics on October 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

DIH LOGOHow long can the national debt continue to increase before it finally collapses under its own weight? Congress seems to think it’s indefinite but when the debt is growing twice as fast as the economy, the country’s financial stability is so compromised it’s making the rest of the world nervous.

Just like having a credit card with an over-extended balance that racks up fees and penalties when defaults occur, the federal deficit grows exponentially with time. Even knocking a few billion off here and there won’t make much of a difference if the economy remains as stagnant as it has in the last several years. America cannot simply keep borrowing more money to cover debt that should have been reduced far earlier.

Photo Courtesy USA Today - www.usatoday.com

Photo Courtesy USA Today – http://www.usatoday.com

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it means to raise the debt ceiling. But continually increasing the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow will only add to the problem. Amid the congressional battles and strong-arming is a dance that averts the actual problem – the only way to reduce the deficit is to cut spending – period. That’s a tall order when all congress seems to want to do is sit by and watch the country hemorrhage money.

As the government shutdown enters a third week, congress is no closer to a solution than it was on October 1st. Government employees are still either furloughed or working without pay. Sure, they’ve been promised back pay, but how does that help when a family has mouths to feed and an upside-down mortgage to pay?

The real question is, apart from the small percentage of Americans who work for the federal government, who has really noticed the shutdown? Many experts say, very few. There are even those who say the park and memorial closures were done more as a publicity stunt to elicit public outrage towards the Republicans than to save money.

Looking at it objectively, that actually makes sense considering that government workers will receive back-pay for any and all days missed on furlough or unpaid time. If the shutdown of national parks services was really because “there was no money to pay them due to the fiscal crisis” during the shutdown, why would there be back pay to offer?

It has also been suggested that the shutdown has exposed another inherently expensive issue within the federal government – redundant or unnecessary employees. Excluding the military from the discussion for the moment, a certain level of redundancy is necessary for various reasons, but there is such a thing as overkill, even at the federal level. That overkill could be costing the taxpayers billions spent on unneeded civilian, contracted and other extraneous personnel.

After all, if you were running a small business and hired six employees when three would have sufficed, your business would soon be in financial distress. After a period of time, even large companies feel the effects of that kind of waste. It’s entirely possible that the government hires many more people than it needs (yeah – shocking, right?). This happens for a number of reasons from bad accounting to nepotism, but it does happen.

Which brings back the original point – Reduce spending and the deficit will come down. Clearly there are cuts that could be made without affecting the government’s overall operation or causing widespread layoffs. Reducing congressional salaries and perks would be a great place to start – particularly their perks. But the shutdown is proving that there are other areas of waste to be addressed. The trick is going to be finding the ones that are genuinely wasteful compared to those that need to be funded.

The difficulty exists in coming to an agreement about what needs to be cut and how much. Different sides have opposing ideas about the definition of “necessary” and required. Eventually they’ll have to come to some common ground and work it all out, but for now things still seem stalled.

The president’s approval rating, according to the Associated Press, is down to 37-percent and congress still lags behind at less than 20-percent. If people re-elect any of these people to congress they have only themselves to blame when this all happens again.


27th Amendment: Congress gets paid no matter what.

In Economy, history, National News, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on October 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm


By Gery L. Deer

Did you know that the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits Congress from changing its own pay? The exact wording is, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

congress 1Although the amendment was submitted to the states for ratification way back in 1789, it was not adopted until 1992, more than 200 years later. It was conceived to prevent the legislative branch from giving itself unwarranted and outrageous increases in pay, but it also works in the reverse. So, according to the constitution, congress gets paid, no matter what happens.

Amid a government shutdown unnecessarily created by a congress that simply refuses to compromise (on either side), it is thoroughly reprehensible that they are not also deprived a paycheck. Compensation certainly outshines performance, particularly by congressional leaders.

According to an article published in 2011 by the Center for Public Integrity, “No legislator – living or dead – has been paid a higher salary by the taxpayer than Speaker Boehner.”

The article notes that the Speaker earns the highest annual salary of all his peers, at $223,500. On the other side of the dome, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional leaders are paid much less; just $193,400 per year.

Poor folks; It’s hard not to feel bad for them. Really, it must be terrible to have to struggle by on a measly couple-hundred-thousand a year. Yes, that was sarcasm.

There should be some way to cut Congress’s pay in midterm when they’re not living up to expectations and actually doing more harm than good. If they had to work a normal job, the current level of unsatisfactory performance would have gotten them all fired a couple of years ago.

con1Apparently, the only way to do have any financial impact on these people is to amend the 27th Amendment, allowing for congressional pay reductions at the will of the people. Administering such a procedure would be something of a logistical and legal challenge, but working it out would pay off in the end.

Direct and immediate job performance accountability, like everyone else endures at work, might actually motivate congressional leaders to the action of the people. At the moment, the only action they are taking is that which gives them the most spots on the Sunday morning news shows.

While hard-working government employees and their families go without pay, some struggling to put food on the table due to recent sequestrations, congressional big wigs luxuriate in the perks of the office, content in their jobs and in the foolhardiness and shockingly short memories of their constituencies. While there may be a few normal people on Capitol Hill, they are greatly outnumbered and hopelessly meek-voiced. A whisper from the back of the hall is nothing to the roar from the leadership seats.

Congress is currently enjoying its lowest approval rating ever, 87 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress’s performance according to an October 1st CNN poll. But until the American people say, “enough is enough,” this pointless bickering over the country’s finances will never cease. It’s as if the House and Senate are like an old married couple arguing over the checkbook register and who spent too much on the new blender they both needed.

Ridiculous filibusters and other Washington-style temper tantrums accomplish nothing, except to secure free press by presidential hopefuls no one has ever heard of now clambering for the spotlight. But, if members of Congress suddenly knew their pay would be cut and their jobs were in danger – now, not two years from now – they might make some effort to straighten all this out.

Until the 27th Amendment is amended, however, every single ineffectual member of congress will continue to collect their overstuffed paycheck. It’s time to show these people how the rest of America has to live because they clearly have no idea.


How Does A Federal Shutdown Affect You?

In Business, Economy, Local News, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 8:01 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines


In a live address July 25th, President Obama urged Americans to pressure congressional leaders to move toward a compromise. (AP Photo)

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.