Author Topic: US govt shutdown  (Read 20087 times)

Offline Andromeda

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US govt shutdown
« on: October 02, 2013, 06:19:46 AM »
Can anyone explain how this has happened?  I don't really understand the US system.  I understand why there is an argument (healthcare) and I understand some of the repercussions of this (US govt employees losing pay and benefits), but I don't understand why or how a shutdown occurs or how it is supposed to make things better.

Can anyone explain please?
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Offline Peter B

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2013, 07:31:57 AM »
My understanding (an Aussie here, so not necessarily better equipped to answer) is that the House of Representatives has failed to pass the President's budget. The budget is both the decisions on where to spend the money and the laws to appropriate the money to allow it to be spent. With no budget passed, eventually the government's departments run out of money, so they have to shut down and send most of their staff on leave without pay.

The reason the House failed to pass the budget is that the House is dominated by the Republican Party, and the Tea Party part of the Republicans wanted to delay the introduction of Obama's health care legislation. So they voted in favour of an altered budget which removed funding for Obamacare, and this budget was rejected by the Senate, which is dominated by the Democrat Party.

With a stand-off like this, it comes down to which party (or individuals within a party) blinks first and agrees to some amount of compromise. The problem is that although public support seems to be more behind Obama than the Tea Party people, the Tea Party people seem determined not to give way.

I find this sort of situation scary, particularly as neither side seems willing to change the rules by which Congress operates, such as allowing filibusters. On top of that, the House of Representatives is stacked in favour of the Republican Party thanks to outrageous gerrymandering of electoral boundaries; states which have a solid majority of Democrat support nevertheless return more Republican Representatives because their Republican state governments draw the boundaries.

The more I watch politics in the USA, the more I'm reminded of the Roman Republic in the first century BC. I don't think the USA will turn into an empire like the Roman Empire, but the system is unsustainable in the long run.
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Offline gillianren

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2013, 11:49:41 AM »
We are supposed to be admiring the House Republicans' intestinal fortitude.  In point of fact, even many within their own party think they are acting like spoiled children.  They have passed legislation to repeal health care over forty times, knowing it won't pass the Senate and would be vetoed by the President anyway.  They have treated this as more important than, you know, passing laws that have a chance of finishing the process and helping the country.

In practical effects, we're kinda screwed right now.  I got my Social Security this month, but a lot of my friends are hurting.  I have friends who are working at the submarine base up north of here as civilian contractors, and they are either furloughed or allowed to come in and work for IOUs.  Their job is keeping the submarine fleet going.  I have a friend who is sailing home from the Bay of Alaska right now, because the oceanographical studies she was participating in are government-funded.  Another friend's husband is an engineer for NIST; he and their daughter whose daycare is through the government are both home right now.  Graham is going to college in part on VA benefits, because that year he spent in a war zone ought to be good for something--and it is.  Sixty percent of the possible post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.  (You have to spend three tours in a war zone to qualify for one hundred percent.)  But the quarter started Monday, and the VA doesn't pay out until ten days into the quarter.  It may or may not get paid on time.  Fortunately for us, the rest of his financial aid was disbursed before the end of the fiscal year and is unaffected.

I'm not entirely happy with the health care legislation myself, I must say.  I want employers out of the insurance game altogether.  I want the US to have universal health care like a civilized country.  This is better than we had--in other words, for most of the people I know, better than nothing!--but not ideal.  It was also about what we could get, and I'm aware that politics involves compromise.  The issue is that we've reached the point where certain people are no longer willing to compromise, and they've come up against people who don't believe they themselves should ever have to.
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Offline PetersCreek

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2013, 12:11:00 PM »

The budget is both the decisions on where to spend the money and the laws to appropriate the money to allow it to be spent. With no budget passed, eventually the government's departments run out of money, so they have to shut down and send most of their staff on leave without pay.

Since I'm an administrative/budget professional who is currently on furlough, I have more than a little time to chime in here!  Here are a few nuts and bolts:

Congress has the exclusive power to appropriate funds.  A central tenet of Federal appropriation law is that funds must not be used except as appropriated by Congress...or otherwise provided for by law.  Expenditures must be correct as to purpose, amount, and time.  The last test is the sticky part here. 

It is unlawful to use funds from one single-year appropriation (multi-year appropriations are another animal) for expenditures in a subsequent fiscal year (FY).  So, with no appropriation for FY14, the Government 'ran out of money' when the FY13 appropriation expired on September 30th.

Of course, we're not completely shut down because the law allows for certain expenditures in the absence of an appropriation.  For instance, my air traffic controllers are still on the job doing their part to maintain safety of the National Airspace System.  I'm furloughed because my duties, while essential, don't have that immediacy.  However, I can be called in for critical requirements on an as-needed basis.

Offline Glom

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2013, 12:15:56 PM »
Political crisis in America. A dream for Stewart and Colbert. I can't wait to see tonight's episodes (which is Tuesday's. Naturally OSN air them a day late because at evening in the Middle East, the day's episode hasn't been made yet).

Shame I'm going home at the weekend.

Offline Andromeda

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2013, 01:54:48 PM »
How long is this expected to last?
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Offline Ranb

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2013, 06:28:10 PM »
I was furloughed yesterday afternoon from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  This morning I got a phone call ordering me back due to emergent work on 12 hour shifts.  I'm debt free and have Tricare Prime insurance at less than $600 a year for family coverage, so the heath care debate doesn't affect me very much right now.  I would like to see better overall health care coverage though.  What steams me is the fact that politicians can't agree enough to keep the government running; and we are still paying them to do that while shutdown.  Contitutional protection (27th amendment) against changing pay until the next term.

I was told to expect it to last from one to thirty days.  It will end when one side blinks before the other.

Ranb
« Last Edit: October 02, 2013, 06:30:20 PM by Ranb »

Offline qt

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2013, 08:56:14 PM »
I want the US to have universal health care like a civilized country.

In civilised countries, one writes 'civilised'.

Offline Glom

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2013, 12:22:23 AM »
I want the US to have universal health care like a civilized country.

In civilised countries, one writes 'civilised'.

And also writes dates day-month-year. I mean what sense in month-day-year? (sorry for the mini-rant but I spent ages yesterday problem solving a spreadsheet where the dates had been converted to text because someone opened it on a machine set to US English and it didn't understand the dates as written)

Offline Echnaton

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2013, 07:31:47 AM »
Gillianren's partisanship aside, we are living in a time when there are significant divisions in what our elected leaders believe they are elected to do. Or at least how they are supposed to implement it.  In specific we are deeply divided over the desirability of the Obama care health care plan. So despite the fact it was made law, the plan does not have widespread popular support among the electorate and the ongoing discussion is currently playing out through this budget debate and government shutdown. 
The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett

Offline Echnaton

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2013, 09:41:24 AM »
One other feature of our system that has an effect on the process.  Spending and budget bills must originate in the House of Representatives.  Once passed by the House, the bill is sent to the Senate where it is modified and amended.  If the amended bill is passed, it then goes to a conference committee where the differences between the House and Senate version are negotiated and the result is sent to both houses for an up or down vote, with no further amendments. 

At the moment, the House and Senate versions are so different that some legislative leaders see no point in negotiating in committee.  President Obama has been reluctant to step into the process and chosen to comment from the side rather than propose a compromise solution.  He has followed this style in some other highly controversial debates and prefers to let Congress work it out.

So part of understanding the workings of the process is that the Senate cannot originate its own Federal spending bill.  That power is constitutionally assigned to the House.   
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Offline gillianren

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2013, 11:32:24 AM »
In specific we are deeply divided over the desirability of the Obama care health care plan. So despite the fact it was made law, the plan does not have widespread popular support among the electorate and the ongoing discussion is currently playing out through this budget debate and government shutdown. 

Actually, this isn't true.  Or anyway, its truth depends a great deal on how you word your polls.  It seems that "Obamacare" has been so vilified that referring to it as such returns very different results than just asking people what they think of the legislation itself.  And, heck, one of the most frequent problems people have with it is that it doesn't go far enough.  Though of course you also get the idiots who are so unaware of how the government actually works that their problem is that they want the government out of their Medicare.  Some people disapprove of government health care on principle, and they're entitled to that.  But they should not, then, have anything to do with Medicare, either, and it bugs the bejeezus out of me that they don't seem to know that.

One of the reasons I care so passionately on this subject is that most of my friends are poor, or anyway most of my local friends.  I've seen the practical effects of not having health care.  None of my friends are in that odd group that has the money for insurance but doesn't bother because they obviously won't get sick.  My friends have hubris, a lot of them, but not that specific kind of hubris.  I have a friend with several serious untreated medical problems, including bipolar disorder worse than mine.  I have a friend who was lucky that her gallbladder flared up a few days earlier rather than later, because she managed to get her surgery just a day or two before she lost her insurance.  Graham doesn't have insurance, because he's out of the military now.  But there's a new plan being offered for veterans which we're going to look into, because his problems didn't go away just because he was honorably discharged.

I am not trying to say, "It's the law of the land, so suck it up."  I'm trying to say, "Don't play chicken like this; what are you, children?"  As it happens, the law is popular enough so that servers have been flooded with people trying to get insurance from the new exchanges.  If they do manage to pass a budget that defunds it, I'm not sure their obvious gerrymandering (have you seen the shape of some of those districts?) will save them next November--because I think they'll be replaced by different Republican candidates in the primaries.  We like returning our incumbents in this country; it's one of the reasons that I'm opposed to term limits, actually.  But people do still have limits.
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Offline Echnaton

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2013, 12:36:40 PM »
In specific we are deeply divided over the desirability of the Obama care health care plan. So despite the fact it was made law, the plan does not have widespread popular support among the electorate and the ongoing discussion is currently playing out through this budget debate and government shutdown. 
Actually, this isn't true.

The law passed the House with a vote of 220–215 vote.  At the legislative level that is about as deep of a division as it can be.  How far that goes in representing voters is certainly more of a question but is is clear there is no unity within the country on the desirability of Obamacare or any national health plan. Its what I call a deep division.

Some people disapprove of government health care on principle, and they're entitled to that.  But they should not, then, have anything to do with Medicare, either, and it bugs the bejeezus out of me that they don't seem to know that.

Trying to put a rationale like this on others (if you believe this you shouldn't do that) is kind of a silly strawman that people attach to opponents for political reasons. Not really an sound argument.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2013, 12:38:19 PM by Echnaton »
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Offline gillianren

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2013, 01:04:37 PM »
"If you don't believe in governmental health care, you shouldn't use governmental health care" is a silly strawman?
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Offline BazBear

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Re: US govt shutdown
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2013, 01:30:07 PM »
The most ironic part of this little game/fiasco is that the way ACA/Obamacare is funded, shutting down the gov't will have no real effect on it for some time. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are left in limbo, wondering when they'll go back to work and get another paycheck. Then there's the knock-on effects to private businesses that serve these people, affecting millions more.
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