Monday, January 21, 2019

Fed Officials Need To Do Their Job, So Fed Employees Can Do Theirs

"All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." ~ Article I: Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution.  The rest of the section spells out how a bill can be passed into law (think Schoolhouse Rock) and the recourse the legislative branch has when faced with a presidential veto.

Subject: White House (altered by James Kiester) | Date: 02/29/2008 | Photographer: Okatah |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
We are, officially, in the middle of the longest federal shutdown in American history.  According to
MSNBC's Ali Velshi, "if the federal shutdown continues, it will likely cost more than the $5.7 billion President Trump wants for his border wall ."

Velshi has a point.  Keep in mind, it's not only 800,000 workers who are losing out right now.  When those workers would go to lunch during their work day, they were buying that lunch from a business.  That business has not been selling those lunches for four weeks now.  When the 800,000 were working they were spending money in their communities.  Now that they're having to cut back, all those businesses in that community suffer.

The ripple effect is absolutely incalculable. It won't be long before corporate America starts to feel the effects on their bottom line. When that happens, stocks are going to take a dive.  Having this many people taken out of the workforce for this long is a sure way to take a wrecking ball to our economy.

I would argue that the cost is in more than just dollars.  The American people are losing faith in their country.  When our leaders cannot work together long enough to keep the proverbial doors open it makes our country look inept around the world.

On Saturday, at 4:07pm EST, President Trump read his newest proposal to end the shutdown.  He offered a three year extension on DACA in exchange for $5.7 billion for the down payment on his border wall.  He wasn't off the air for one hot minute before Nancy Pelosi was on air rejecting the offer.

Trump made an offer that he knew Pelosi would not accept.  Pelosi did not even pretend to think it over before she said no.  Both sides are so intent on winning that there's no room for give and take.  Without a willingness to negotiate our government cannot function.

As I see it, there's only one semi-realistic way out of this mess.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to allow the Senate to vote on the bills which have gone through the House.  Once the president vetoes the bill, Congress needs to override the veto and get America back to work.  However, in order for this to happen, the Republican controlled Senate needs to start acting like part of the legislative branch of government, rather than an office of the White House.  

Monday, January 14, 2019

King Trump and His Pawns

Well, it's official.  We are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.  It's not a record which anyone, well almost anyone, wanted to break, but here we are.  800,000 federal went without their first paycheck last Friday, even though 420,000 of those employees are still being required to report for work.

King Trump| Publicly traded MEME|
Keep in mind, this government shutdown is the result of people arguing over a proposed border wall.  The 800,000 employees who are going without pay are being used as pons in Trump's game of chess.  The wall has nothing to do with them, they are merely being held hostage until Trump gets what he wants.

Last week I floated the idea that democrats should give in to Trump's demands in order to get people back to work.

  • I was concerned about federal employees not being able to buy groceries for their families.
  • I was appalled at the idea families are having to return their Christmas gifts in order to pay rent.
  • I was disgusted by the fact that hard working public servants are having to choose between buying food or buying medications.

Even more appalling was Trump's statement that workers would have to, "adjust their spending."  He obviously does not understand, or care about, the kind of hardships he's causing.

Taking the number of people suffering into account, I suggested that congress may as well give in.  I reasoned that even he if he got the money tomorrow, private landowners would keep the project tied up in court battles for twenty years.  However, I was corrected on my flawed logic.  Multiple readers contacted me via Facebook and politely pointed out that, if congress gives in now, President Trump will be able to hold workers hostage everytime he wants something.  Our country would become a functional dictatorship.

As badly as I feel for those who are caught in the middle, through no fault of their own, we can't give into Trump's demands for the same reason that law enforcement can not negotiate with kidnappers.  Congress must draw a line in the sand and hold firm.

I don't know how this will all end.  I hope that Senate Majority Leader McConnell will allow a bipartisan bill to be voted on by the senate.  Once both houses pass a bill I believe they can override a veto.  Short of such an override, I don't see a way out for our country.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Empty Chairs At Empty Desks

Once bustling halls and offices are quiet today.  The lonely stillness would send shutters up spines of dwellers, if any in fact could breach the pad locks securing the federally owned buildings.

Photographer: Desk Driver
This photo is in the public domain worldwide.
I wrote the opening paragraph in October of 2013, during the Obama shutdown.  I had hoped the paragraph would never apply again.  Yet, here we are.  800,000 federal employees are going without pay because our leaders can't work together for the common good.

This shutdown is a little bit different than the one five years ago.  Back then, Senator Ted Cruz held things up to try to repeal Obamacare.  In that case, he was trying to undo a law which was already on the books.  Today, the government is arguing over a wall that does not exist yet.

Those who read this blog on a regular basis know how I feel about the wall.  Not only are there more effective deterrents to illegal border crossings, but the wall puts our country in a category alongside East Germany.  We should aspire to be something greater than a, now defunct, communist country.

Nevertheless, President Trump has vowed not to approve a budget without a five billion dollar line item to build a wall.  Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed not to include the line item in any budget that the House sends to the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised not to allow the Senate to vote on any budget from the House that doesn't contain the line item for the wall.

Each camp is firmly entrenched with their own point of view and are not willing to budge from their position.  As a result 800,000 people don't know where their next bag of groceries is coming from.  On top of that, half of the workers who are going without pay are still being forced to report to work.  I don't know about you, but that sounds like slavery to me.

At a meeting with Democratic leadership, last Friday, Trump said he could keep shutdown going for months or years, as if it was some academic exercise.  Real people are suffering.  800,000 real people don't know how they're going to feed their families and pay their rent/mortgages.  Businesses, which sell goods and services to these federal employees have lost a source of income as well.  The number of people who will be hurt by the domino effect, created by the shutdown, is incalculable.

Again, I think the wall is a bad idea.  However, nobody is going to die if the wall is built.  Surely both sides can find some wiggle room and figure out a way to get these people working again.  Besides, Joe Scarborough, of MSNBC's Morning Joe, made a good point this morning; even if the budget for it was approved today, private land owners would file so many law suits that ground won't be broken for 15 years, if ever.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Leave My Holiday Traditions Alone!

Make no mistake, I'm a liberal Democrat.  I believe in universal health care, government assistance programs for the poor and disadvantaged, legalized marijuana, a woman's right to choose, gay rights, etc.  However there are limits to even my liberalism.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
A movement has arisen, in America, to ban certain Christmas programs for not being politically correct.  The most vocal argument revolves around Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Those who object to the cartoon point out that the other reindeer and Santa Clause bully Rudolph for looking different.  They only welcome him into the fold once his disfigurement proves useful to them.

Objectors would also ban A Charlie Brown Christmas.  They argue that Lucy bullies Charlie by moving the football when Charlie goes to kick it.  These self-appointed guardians of the airwaves also object to Linus quoting the bible at the ending of the story.

Last but not least, or maybe it is least, they object to Frosty The Snowman for having a corn-cob pipe in his mouth which, in their minds, promotes smoking.

I could spend a good four paragraphs arguing each and every point that they make.  I could argue that Rudolph overcame the bullying, etc...  Yet, I'm not going to waste my time arguing the merits of the stories point by point.   I am more concerned with the underlying assumption that everything that is controversial should be banned.

Even though we see cartoons as mundane bits of pop culture, they are, in fact, products of artistic expression.  It has been said that the job of art is to provoke emotion.  It doesn't have to be  positive emotion, it just has to provoke something within us.

If you believe that the story of Rudolf is about bullying, why not use the cartoon to start a discussion with children about bullying?  If you object to the way Lucy treats Charlie Brown why not use it to talk to your kids about friendship?

Of course, there is another very easy solution.  If you don't want to look at anything that challenges your world view, you can click the off button of your remote control.  If you don't like it you don't have to watch it.  If, for some reason, that doesn't work, you can close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and hum loud enough to make sure that no messages you don't approve of get in.

Banning cartoons creates what we call a slippery slop.  Today, we ban a few objectionable cartoons.  Next, Baby It's Cold Outside is pulled from the radio for promoting Weinstein-esc behavior.  Then, certain movies can not be shown on television or at the local theater.   Before you know it , we will all be gathered in a public square buring copies of Catcher in the Rye and The Road by Jack Kerouac.

Cultures that suppress artistic expression inevitably collapse.  To suppress art is to suppress the voice of the people.  In order to maintain a free society we must allow all ideas to be expressed.  It is then up to us to listen or not listen, to look or to not look, as we see fit.