Sisters Talking On. . .The Government Shutdown

Apologies for our hiatus, but Lynn and I are back, and not a moment too soon, with the government shutdown upon us. . .

Point for Discussion:

 The partial government shutdown is now in week 3.  In addition to its political ramifications, it is greatly impacting people’s lives.  This is a milestone that no one wanted to reach – the longest government shutdown in history.   Is it because of politics, lack of negotiation skill (or will), or something else, and what should be done about it?

Points of View:

(Laurie)

First and foremost, the government is in business to represent the people/all of us.  It is operating with responsibility to keep us safe, keep us protected, and help us function as a society.

It is doing some things right during the shutdown:

  • The military is still protecting our Nation
  • The TSA is protecting air travel (although with reduced staffing, is a risk)
  • Medicare and Social Security are still being paid
  • The post office is still delivering our mail
  • The IRS is there to process tax returns (but can’t issue refunds)
  • The weather service is still predicting the (bad) weather

But, it is also doing a lot of things wrong that are hurting the people it is required to serve:

  • Government employees who are working, by law, must be paid – how is this even a question?
  • Individuals’ credit is being affected, and they won’t be receiving help to recover – especially critical among those who have been working long and hard to improve their financial situations
  • Student loans are not being granted – so young adults are not able to enroll in college – but I assume collection agencies on the back end are still at work to collect funds from those in debt
  • National parks and monuments are closed – they should never be closed – we are America first, and our national places should ALWAYS be open (and staffed, with staff being paid)

During my research, I have learned that there is a “Shutdown Contingency Plan” that continues “core” programs and benefits.  However, this has proven insufficient as more federal employees are now being asked to come back to work without being paid.

As a potential solution, given the political environment, we may need a bill/law that re-defines “essential,” and updates the “Shutdown Contingency Plan” to specify what now must stay open during any government shutdown (partial or otherwise), so we know what to expect, and can plan our lives accordingly.  If it must be stated, “essential” would include:

  • Safety to our Nation – military, TSA, etc. and ongoing support of Veterans
  • Safety to our financial situation – must pay those who are working, grant student loans, etc.
  • Safety to families – those who receive aid must be enabled to continue to feed/support their families

Government leaders should not have the power to shut down life-required services to its constituents – we the people – for political reasons.  Our leaders must learn how to negotiate in a productive and non-partisan way to maintain and improve our standard of living rather than detract from it.

(Lynn)

This President certainly approaches his job differently from his predecessors. In addition to his daily Twitter rants, cyber bullying, and embellishment and creation of alternative facts, he is now taking a stand on an issue that the majority of the country really doesn’t support.  We are now 25 days in to the shutdown of certain government departments with no end in sight.

I agree with Laurie that the Federal government should not be allowed to shut down, but I understand that all funding needs to be approved by Congress and short of that, there is no money to keep departments open.  From a financial budgeting perspective, no money to spend leaves no alternative but a shutdown until there is money available.

The unfortunate side of this is that we are asking some people to work without pay while others have been furloughed. The irony is that we are requiring the TSA employees, on the national security front lines, to work without pay while we argue over funding for the President’s southern border wall to enhance national security.

So here we are again with a divided government that is allowing politics to prevent progress.  This is unconscionable.  It seems like all sides have drawn their own respective line in the sand, and refuse to discuss alternative thoughts or solutions to break the stalemate. At this rate, the government shutdown could last quite a while.  If that happens, the consequences will be dire to many.

The employees furloughed will have to find alternative employment just to put food on the table or make mortgage and rent payments.  For those required to work without pay, the opportunity to seek alternate employment is not possible unless they call off, which many TSA agents have already decided to do.  So what will happen if airlines can’t manage through a lengthy TSA agent shortage that spreads across the country?  Is there a risk that the airlines will have to cut back on flights?  The ripple effect of this could be very bad if it goes on for too long.

Then there’s the IRS.  The IRS has also been furloughed because of the shutdown. While they plan to call back more than 36,000 employees, they will be working without pay until the shutdown ends. The new tax laws that will govern our 2018 tax filings may be complicated for many and there may be no one to call for help. To add insult to injury, if we are getting refunds, they may be delayed because of the shutdown. If taxes are owed though, they must be paid on time.

All of this is a result of outrageous positions taken by our duly elected government representatives.  Is this what we expected when we went to vote?  I sure didn’t expect our elected officials to behave like children and not play nice with the other side.

These folks need to get out of their political ruts and start to do their jobs.  That starts with listening to what the other side has to say. The President wants us to believe that every issue is black or white without any gray area between. Very few issues are that cut and dried. The President needs to put his belligerent attitude on hold and actually listen to those around him.  The facts don’t support the President’s perception of the benefits of a wall on our southern border.  The humanitarian crisis that is driving immigration from Central America is a larger issue that will not be resolved by the construction of a wall.  For every wall that goes up, opportunists will find a way to get around it.  It may slow immigration for a short period of time, but immigration, both legal and illegal, will recover quickly, as soon as a way is found around whatever barrier is constructed.

The better solution would be to address the humanitarian crisis with a diplomatic solution.

So where do we go from here?  The negotiating table would be a good place to start. Focus needs to be placed on what’s best for the American people and the country. Lawmakers need to talk to each other and actually listen to the other side.  No storming out of the room if they don’t like what the other side has to say. That accomplishes nothing.  There must be a mutually agreeable solution for both sides (win-win just means no one gets everything they want) that stops short of declaring a national emergency and hijacking money from the military.

The United States is still a democracy which means that we, the people, still have some say in what goes on in Washington DC. We did not elect a king, though he pretends he has that much power these days.  Let’s take back our country and let our lawmakers know how we feel and help them to get past this lunacy yet again.

Our Question for You:

What do you think is the first step to solving this current political standoff that can help to re-open the government?

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