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U.S. Government: Sorry, We're Closed 1532

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that-time-of-year dept.
theodp writes "CNN reports that the U.S. government shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT Tuesday after lawmakers in the House and the Senate could not agree on a spending bill to fund the government. Federal employees who are considered essential will continue working. But employees deemed non-essential — close to 800,000 — will be furloughed, and most of those are supposed to be out of their offices within four hours of the start of business Tuesday."
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U.S. Government: Sorry, We're Closed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @02:44AM (#44999263)

    ... the laughing stock of the western world, right? No other country has such an idiotic system (or as much partisan bickering).

  • by Guest316 (3014867) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @02:54AM (#44999327)
    They're free to do whatever, as long as they're ready to return to work with only a day's notice. Then they get paid for all the time they were out of work once the budget's resolved. It's basically a paid vacation, except you don't get paid until it's over, and you can't really travel out-of-area. Source: Was furloughed during Clinton's reign.
  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:01AM (#44999367)

    Are you kidding me? Let me summarize the situation:

    * The Senate passes a bill to continue federal funding as required
    * The House passes a bill that also kills Obamacare completely
    * The Senate rejects it
    * The House passes a bill that delays Obamacare for a year, kills the medical device tax, and kills women's contraception coverage
    * The Senate rejects it
    * The House passes a bill that kills the individual mandate (the only thing that would make Obamacare work)
    * The Senate rejects it
    * The government shuts down

    Here's the strategy of the Republicans: shut down the government and then threaten to default (this happens on Oct 17th if the debt ceiling isn't raised). The government shutdown is simply a way for the Republicans to show that they are serious. It is an annoyance, but it is not an economic calamity. But the debt ceiling is. If the government defaults, everything is going to hell. So far the Republicans have just shot one hostage. Now they are threatening to kill them all.

  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:04AM (#44999377)

    That's just B.S. The house wasn't sending a budget bill to the senate, they were trying to subvert the democratic process by transforming an appropriations bill into a way to attack Obamacare.

    They've tried 50 times to vote it out, and since that hasn't worked they've just gone ahead and tried to backdoor it.

  • by advocate_one (662832) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:14AM (#44999443)
    and stop giving billions of your tax dollars to the Israelis... In one fell swoop, your party would ride back in on a massive wave of goodwill as the TSA goons who make life such a misery would have been consigned to the dustbin of history...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:18AM (#44999461)

    This isn't true. There is no guarantee that furloughed workers will be paid for their time upon their return.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:20AM (#44999475)

    I was there for the last shutdown.

    By statute, email was not sufficient for notification. Every employee had to show up to the office and be given a formal-on-paper memo telling them they were furloughed. Remember, by statute, the in-person delivery of a notice on paper was required. That meant that *every* field employee had to make there way back to the office the same morning to receive their paper. Special Agents were called off of stake-outs. Employees permamently assigned to work from home or from desks at non-government entities had to leave their normal workspace and come into the federal building that was, theoretically, their place of employment...even if they *never* set foot in that building under normal circumstances.

    At the last shutdown, every federal building was packed. There wasn't room for all the people who were forced to show up all at the same time. Halls were lined with people standing around because they had no place to sit. Friends gathered in groups of 4 or 5 around the desk of the one guy in their group who actually had a desk.

    All of this may have been changed in the meantime.

    However, post-9/11 we used to discuss the prospect of another shutdown and always concluded the same. Congress would be stupid to do it. The mechanics of the process made every federal building in the nation an incredibly enticing, super-target-rich environment for any nut job with a bomb or a gun who wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.

    We tended to think that putting all government employees in central locations, metaphorically under a giant banner that said "All terrorists attack here. Multiple high-value targets present. High level of success guaranteed." was so stupid that even Congress wouldn't do it.

    Of course, we might have been wrong about that.

  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:23AM (#44999493) Homepage Journal

    The government shutdown is simply a way for the Republicans to show that they are serious. It is an annoyance, but it is not an economic calamity. But the debt ceiling is. If the government defaults, everything is going to hell. So far the Republicans have just shot one hostage. Now they are threatening to kill them all.

    Here's a few articles by Paul Krugman which go into those ideas in more detail.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/opinion/krugman-rebels-without-a-clue.html [nytimes.com]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/opinion/krugman-the-crazy-party.html [nytimes.com]

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/default-notes/ [nytimes.com]

  • by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:35AM (#44999567) Homepage Journal

    Well, looking at the US deficit and debt, one could argue that the Tea Party might be loonies but at least it isn't their policy to spend their grandchildren's earnings.

    It wasn't Bill Clinton's policy to spend his grandchildren's earnings either. He left office with the budget in balance.

    It was George W. Bush's policy to spend that surplus on tax breaks for his billionaire friends, and then spend $3 trillion for a war in Iraq for the purpose of (what was it again?), most of which went to his no-bid contractors like Halliburton. Bush left us in debt that your grandchildren will be paying for.

    The Tea Party is funded by the same loonies that got those no-bid contracts.

  • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:36AM (#44999569)

    I was under the impression from comments in the news that it's not guaranteed that you get back-paid?

    I don't know the details but perhaps in the Clinton era shut down they simply opted to? It doesn't mean they will this time from what I understand.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @03:44AM (#44999619)

    Its the job of an intelligent citizen to not depend on the government to provide them with things and to stop saying "cut spending... OH NO DON'T TOUCH SHIT I CARE ABOUT!".

    Everyone needs to suck it up and make cuts and then, maybe, they can afford to do some things they care about with their own money when it is kept in their own bank accounts.

  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @04:45AM (#44999931) Journal

    You're an idiot, you know that? The House of Representatives represents the will of the people. The people want to get rid of Obamacare.

    You realise that in the last election:

    • The Democrats won the Presidency.
    • In the Senate, of the 33 seats that were up for election, 23 were Democrat and the Republicans only needed to take 4 of them to have a majority. Instead, they lost 2.
    • In the House elections, the Democrats won the majority of the popular vote, got 3.4% more of the popular vote than last time (the Republicans got 4.8% less than last time), gained 8 seats, but still don't have an overall majority because of the way constituency boundaries are placed.

    Or, to put it another way, in 2012:

    • In the Presidental election, 51.1% voted Democrat, 47.2% voted Republican.
    • In the Senate election, 53.7% voted Democrat, 42.1% voted Republican.
    • In the House election, 48.3% voted Democrat, 46.9% voted Republican.

    So, in terms of popular vote, the Democrats go a (very slim) majority in two of the three elections, the Republicans didn't manage it in one. In the election where the Republicans did best (the Presidential race, 47.2%), they didn't get as much of the vote as the Democrats did in the election where they did the worst (House, 48.3%). Neither party got anywhere close to the percentage of the vote that enables someone who doesn't lie for a living to claim to have a mandate from the people.

    Now, I realise the state of mathematical education is pretty poor in the USA, but being able to tell which of two numbers is bigger than the other is surely something that is covered.

  • Re:That's weird... (Score:5, Informative)

    by marsu_k (701360) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @04:46AM (#44999939)

    Actually you will feel something. It'll be like boiling a frog.

    No, it won't. [snopes.com]

  • by stymy (1223496) <[pdezuviria] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @04:50AM (#44999951)
    By non-essential they only mean that for the short term. For example, according to the BBC, the people who process visas and passports are now on furlough, so obviously that can't go on for very long.
  • by water-and-sewer (612923) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @05:29AM (#45000163) Homepage

    You guys both have it slightly wrong.

    The last time this happened, everyone was split into two groups: "essential staff" was required to come to work, but for no pay because even in absence of a budget it was dangerous for them to not perform their duties (the guys who fix broken traffic lights, for example, and others). The other grou was "non essential" and sent home with no pay.

    After the budget was resolved, everyone came back to work and was paid for those days. But the essential staff complained that although everyone got paid, the "non-essential staff" basically got a free vacation and were paid for it, while the 'essential staff' had to work for their money.

    The economists agreed it was basically unfair. So while at some point the political folks can make a decision about whether to pay back-pay or not, there's no guarantee. In fact the fair thing to do is not pay back salary for the non-essential staff, since they did not perform their duties.

    Point is: they have to decide what to do, and there's no guarantee anyone will be paid for their time, which sucks.

  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eddi3 (1046882) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @06:14AM (#45000375) Homepage Journal
    Would you perhaps be referring to Illinois 4th district nicknamed 'Earmuffs?" https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/IL04_109.gif [wikimedia.org]
  • by Burz (138833) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @06:56AM (#45000543) Journal

    Most of us did NOT vote for them. Republicans won the House with a minority of votes because of gerrymandered districts.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @06:59AM (#45000563)

    Um....Obamacare was the single largest issue during the campaign.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:4, Informative)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @07:04AM (#45000593)

    Good point tho it's really more

    (Extreme Right) 5%*, Far Right (15%), Right (25%), Center (15%), Left(35%), Far Left (5%).

    If it were not for the abortion issue "glue", I think the Far Right would have broken off by now.

    Also, the Far Right isn't wrong when they say we should reduce government spending.

    The problem is they have a blind eye when it comes to a really overbloated defense bill (as big as the next 20 to 30 countries COMBINED) inflating at a high rate annual (even a cut back to 2007 levels would be 20%).

    In the U.S., extreme left candidates are essentially not elected to state or national offices.

    *Actually probably under 3% but I didn't want to research the numbers).

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @07:50AM (#45000845)
    The republicans currently control the House of Representatives where all spending bills originate. The democrat controlled Senate is the group voting to shut the government down. But even if they voted to keep government services running, the democrat president promised to veto anything so that the government shuts down.
  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by superdude72 (322167) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @08:21AM (#45001049)

    What "far left" positions has the Democratic party taken? The Affordable Care Act is essentially what the Republicans were proposing for health care reform 20 years ago.

  • Re: Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by GodInHell (258915) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @08:23AM (#45001069) Homepage
    You do not understand correctly, debt limit increase is next month. This is just funding to keep staff paid and lights on, Congress hasn't authorized the executive to spend money, and the executive can't spend money without authorization, hence, shutdown. Debt default is the end of the modern era.
  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @08:35AM (#45001175)

    The budget of $132 billion (estimated, 2011 - god only knows what it is today; nobody else seems to know) should be immediately cut to whatever is really necessary rock bottom for the food safety and inspection program, and the ridiculous cabinet status terminated. My guess is a couple of billion.

    Isn't the food safety and inspection program funded by user fees from the agricultural/packing industry?

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:2, Informative)

    by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak.speakeasy@net> on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @08:53AM (#45001335) Homepage
    Last time I checked, we didn't elect Congressmen by national popular vote. We elect them by district. That, by the way, is a feature, not a bug. . .
  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:02AM (#45001427) Homepage
    The US forest service is also part of the USDA and they actually do stuff like manage the national forests.
  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:14AM (#45001541)

    They also re-elected a GOP majority in the House where funding bills start.

    The House is gerrymandered. It does not accurately represent the will of the people, but rather represents the cumulative will of the parties in control of the states. If I remember correctly, between 95% and 98% of Congressional seats are predetermined by gerrymandering.

    Furthermore, you already wrote "Polls show half the country thought the law was already fully in effect until last week or so and the majority don't understand their obligations or the most perfunctory effects the law will have on them" so clearly this can't be the will of the people, if half of them have no idea what the law is or will do. I'm not sure how this could conceivably be seen as anything other than the political obsession of a minority of congress.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:23AM (#45001627)

    While the people did elect Obama a second time they also elected a majority republican congress at the same time. The people did vote for a divided government, although I do wonder how many people were voting against Romney instead of voting for Obama.Considering that Obama got a higher percentage of the vote than the democrats did in congress (looks to be about 3%) it would seem likely that people were voting against Romney.

    You should be aware that the Democrats won the congressional popular vote by around 50.7% to 49.3%, but because of gerrymandering (the practice of dividing congressional districts to subvert the will of the public), they have fewer seats in congress than the Republicans.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:51AM (#45001951)

    Well, RomneyCare already did work pretty well when rolled out to Massachusetts --- it's a tried, tested system. Not as well as single-payer systems or socialized healthcare that cut insurance companies entirely out of the profit loop; but, what do you expect from a plan concocted by right-wing think tanks?

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:3, Informative)

    by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:52AM (#45001981) Journal

    That will not help them Obama-care counts Full-time Employees and Full-time Equivalent Employees. Full-time Equivalent Employees are the number of hours worked by part-time employees divided by 30, so by my understanding a full-time 40 hour employees counts as 1 and 2 part-time working 20 hours count as 1.5! So if an employer mis-calculates and goes over the magic number of 50 by 1 he can be hit with penalties.

  • Re: Fucking idiots (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @09:54AM (#45001999)

    I agree with you except for the "either party, once in power, actually reduces spending" part.

    Under Clinton the budget went from a deficit of almost $300B to a *surplus* of $230B.
    Under Obama the budget went from a deficit of almost $1.4T to a deficit of about $750B.

    Under all republican presidents in the last 30 years the deficit has gone up.

    Now, you can definitely argue that both democrats increased taxes, and that is certainly a factor. But Clinton's tax increases didn't add nearly $600B to the budget and neither did Obama's. Taxes only account for part of the reduction in the deficit. The other part is a reduction in spending.

    The combination of the two is what reduced the deficit and is the only sane way to approach the problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @10:39AM (#45002613)

    The country my wife is from, is not a rich European country, rather one where its just as common to see a donkey on the road as a car.

    Yet, for some reason the UN ranks their national health care system above the US's.. Thats because when my wife's aging mother has a medical issue she goes to the doctor, sits in the waiting room for a 1/2 hour, pays the eqivilant of about a $1 as a co-pay and gets medical attention similar to what my wife gets using our shitty insurance in the US that costs us thousands a year, and has co-pay in the hundreds.

    Funny thing is that the "best"/$ insurance my wife can get in the US, is probably a plane ticket home.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:01AM (#45002875)
    Yeah there's a democratic president. Presidency is not a dictator. Let alone he is one with current approval ratings that are very low, let alone the polls of those that show not just of low approval, but actually disapprove of his performance vs just being complacent. There should be article after article about how bad his approval rating is which according to wikipedia has an average lower than Bush.
  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:14AM (#45003013)

    The reasoning is

    http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/spend.php [ucsc.edu]

    If you look at the chart of spending vs outcome, you see the U.S. sucks and many other countries have better or at least equal outcomes with much lower cost.

    It's not unreasonable to think if we toss out the current system of "for profit" medical insurance and care and simply emulated some of the other already successful countries that we could lower costs and improve outcomes.

    As it is now, if you have a good job or are wealthy (and don't have a pre-condition), then you get insurance. Otherwise, forget it.

    Why are we paying $4500 a year to get worse results than 20-30 other countries including many 1st world countries with otherwise similar costs of living?

    The Medicare and Medicaid programs are actually comparable to other countries and younger doctors are accepting medicare and medicaid patients (they are profitable- just not AS profitable so long established doctors prefer to focus on the more profitable patients).

    Being aware how extensive the anti-aca propaganda has been, I checked the numbers myself and I'll be saving about $2500 on my insurance costs. And the ACA has freed me to retire and start my own small business (more of a hobby really- healing people with chronic pain, migraines, and various overuse syndromes).

  • Re: Fucking idiots (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:27AM (#45003207) Homepage

    To be fair, Carter and Clinton both got the deficit down to zero. Obama has it falling sharply now (but I'll bet it goes back up as we recover from the latest hostage situation).

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:02PM (#45003657)

    Yes, but you could split the votes out evenly by state, and the Democrats would still be in control of Congress today. For example, the Democrats got about 12% more votes for their congressional candidates in Michigan in 2012. Michigan has 9 Republican reps and only 5 Dems. In Pennsylviana the Democrats got about 80K more votes than Republicans. Pennsylvania has 13 Republicans and only 5 Democrats.

    The House is supposed to be the Representative body of our legislature, but that is no longer the case. The Republicans have managed to rig the system so they can lose elections badly, and still be the majority. They can lose barely, and be in a huge majority. This is not democracy in any way, so we should not be surprised when they proceed to act like elections don't matter. They don't.

  • Re:The Blame Game (Score:5, Informative)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:23PM (#45003909)

    In fact, 2.7 million more people voted for Democratic candidates for the House than voted for Republicans. So no, Republican candidates were not better. Even if you zoom down to states, you see this. For example, in Pensylvania, Democratic candidates got about 80K more votes, which got them only five of the state's 18 Representatives.

    The reason the Republicans in the House are acting like elections don't matter, is because for them elections don't matter.

  • Re:Fucking idiots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @02:12PM (#45005195)

    Unbelievable. I really can't understand this reasoning. You ADMIT that the government is incompetent in how they spend the public's money ('while not providing any healthcare") while wanting to take a well working health care system and dismantle it and give it to the government to control! This is just insane thinking.

    It's very simple. The "incompetence" is not in the government spending money -- it's the government spending that money in the private sector rather than managing it itself.

    The problem is that we don't have a true public healthcare system nor a true private one. We have a hybrid public-private healthcare system, with all the greed of a profit-seeking private insurance and healthcare sector welded to the low competition of a publicly-backed system and captive market, with all the inefficiencies of both multiplied. We have the worst of both worlds.

    Going pure private sector won't help, because healthcare simply isn't a competitive free market and cannot be. Even if they had all the data, people simply do not seek care based on lowest cost, and the system cannot optimize itself to that end without that. Worse, the information asymmetry between providers and customers is horrible compared to something like auto dealerships Customers simply aren't qualified to know ahead of time whether they will get the best service for the lowest price.. (Do I really need that expensive CAT scan? How am I supposed to know?) Finally, customers are often not free to act with full rational capacity when the lives of themselves and their family are on the line. Time constraints, stress, etc. all compound the lack of available data with the inability to assess it properly. The end result is pretty much the opposite of what economists expect as the underpinnings of a free market.

    Our system has one additional complications from its current worst of both worlds status of having people kept out of the decision-making process of their healthcare combined with the profit motive. Healthcare providers are unable (and unwilling in most cases) to provide a price sheet for their services up front, making competitive shopping impossible. That's for the insurers to handle, not the plebeians. Without customer input and without government regulation, this results in wild swings in costs for similar services as well as perverse incentives to charge the most to people without insurance instead of to the people who can most afford it. Fixing this would require regulation even without public use of funds.

    So the only other real alternative is to swing the other way and eliminate the profit-seeking motive as a source of inefficiency. Also, a unified payer system would drastically cut down administrative costs. If the government was paying for all care, then the justification for most damages in malpractice lawsuits would drop sharply, reducing liability costs. Redundant services could be streamlined. Hospital costs could be brought in-line instead of varying wildly from facility to facility.

    With public health as a greater priority than profits, programs to focus on wellness instead of recovery could be brought into focus. We would no longer have the terrible costs of people waiting until they end up in the emergency room because they gambled that they'd get better first. We wouldn't have the constant drag on the economy of the working poor working through their illnesses rather than getting treatment when it's cheapest and most effective because they're afraid of the costs.

    And if you don't believe this, then just look at the numbers. [ucsc.edu] Other countries spend far less of their GDP (with far less GDP per capita to begin with!) than we do, and they live longer. By having a national healthcare system, they spend sometimes half to a third of what we pay and often live 1-5 years longer. What exactly are we paying for, except a misguided principle that puts a mirage of economic liberty (which simply doesn't exist in healthcare) over human lives?

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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