As of the writing of this post it is a pleasant Sunday on the beautiful east coast of The U.S. of A. and the United States Government is facing a nigh-unavoidable shutdown starting on Tuesday, the first of October. Run for the hills! Grab your children and maybe save a few from the horror by randomly distributing a few mercy killings! The stuff has hit the fan and it is game over!
Well, not exactly. Actually, the Federal Government in America has been shutdown 17 times, first in 1976 by Republican President Gerald Ford. He decided that governmental spending was too high, and vetoed a funding bill. The veto was eventually overridden but all in all, it only resulted in 10 days of shutdown. The record length for an American shutdown is 21 days. The world record for governmental shutdown? Over a year. So we’ve dealt with shutdowns in the past. So what could a governmental shutdown even be, if we don’t see society collapse every time one happens?
Well, it’s on a bit of a shutdown-by-shutdown basis. One thing that always happens is that Federal employee wages are furloughed. This essentially means that these employees go on unpaid leave. The Federal Government employs nearly 3 million people. That’s a pretty big hit. However, don’t panic! That does not mean that people just stand up and quit doing their jobs, as essential services will continue through a shutdown. Your basic emergency services (Ambulances, Police, Fire-fighters), your systematic support (Air Traffic Control, Post Offices, Prisons), your heavy duty (The Army) and, most importantly, the National Weather Service (Thank God!) will all remain open. Also, Congress keeps getting paid during these things, so don’t worry, our most productive members of society will continue to receive their dues.
But now that you’re (hopefully) no longer worried about the “threat” of government shutdown, let’s talk about why this is happening.
In 2010, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed by the 111th Congress, with a majority Democratic House, a majority Democratic Senate, and a Democratic President. That’s a whole slew of democratic thought, and it bred a law which, not to judge but, is pretty awful. (Note I’m not really going to argue for the ins and outs of that statement here, as I agree there are many but suffice to say it’s at the very least an unpopular law)
Then, in January of 2011, America voted in the 112th Congress, with a barely majority Democratic Senate and a now overwhelmingly Republican House. Charging boldly forward from all across America, this congress had one unifying goal, and that was to make sure those big mean statists didn’t do diddily squat with the Federal Government. And it worked! In that sort of “punch myself in the face until I fall asleep” kind of way. Time and again this House has fought the Senate and the President on every little issue to the point that there was no hope of getting anything done by either side. So here we sit today, hoping that our government will do at least a little something either way, but ultimately not doing much of anything, and typically fighting to avoid sequestrations and shutdowns.
So what’s the problem? Why is this group of Right and Left wingers not able to get along and get something done? The answer here is simple. We have elected an Idealistic, not Pragmatic Congress.
Idealism is all about sticking to your guns. Sure she’s your sister, but she stole something! Off with her hand!
Pragmatism, on the other hand, is about finding a way to let your values show through reasonable actions. Sure your sister stole something, but doesn’t cutting off her hand make her less fit for real work, and more likely to turn to a life of crime?
So when we elected these Ideologues, on both sides, we were asking for this gridlock. In a way, we’ve been on this Idealistic march for a long time, but there’s finally an extremely important issue dead in the middle to fight about, and it seems that it’s just high time that the Idealists get exposed for who they are: a whole lot of time wasting whiners.