A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Government shutdown averted – for now

Bill Knight column for Mon, Tues., or Wed., Oct. 19, 20 or 21

John Boehner’s resignation from Congress and as Speaker of the House and the withdrawal by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from succeeding him are distractions from the people’s work in Washington, but the national media alert on the chaos like my Labrador’s fascination with squirrels.

Newshounds who ought to be watchdogs are increasingly lapdogs – or pesky Pomeranians who incessantly yap mostly because they can.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress at the last minute approved a stopgap measure to keep government operating until December 11 (without eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood).

It’s possible that representatives were swayed by Boehner’s action, or Pope Francis’s speech, or public opinion. For instance, after the Republicans engineered the 2013 government shutdown, Americans’ favorable view of the GOP fell 10 percentage points in one month, from 38 percent to 28 percent. Also, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that 69 percent of Americans oppose shutting down Planned Parenthood (compared to Gallup showing Congress’ approval rating now down to 14 percent).

Regardless, Congress’ Continuing Resolution merely postpones real action.

“The vote keeps the doors open but solves nothing,” said Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future. “In December, the Congress will face another government shutdown, plus it will run into the expiration of the debt limit, enabling the wingnuts to threaten the good faith and credit of the United States government to achieve their obsessions – defunding Obamacare, ending Planned Parenthood’s support for women’s health care, gelding the Environmental Protection Agency or whatever.”

A government shutdown occurs if Congress fails to pass an appropriations measure, meaning the Constitution and a law, the Antideficiency Act, require the government to start shutting down affected services. If the funding gap continues, the law requires furloughing “non-emergency” workers and curtailing agencies’ operations.

“The wingnuts of the Right are winning,” Borosage continued. “Yes, they have failed to repeal Obamacare, or cut women’s health care, or repeal consumer financial protection. But they are slowly disemboweling basic government services, as falling spending fails to meet growing needs and a growing population.

“Everything that government does domestically – outside of guaranteed programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, veteran’s pensions and the like – has been slashed by about 17 percent since 2010,” he added. “Support for K-through-12 education – the utterly essential support that goes to schools in impoverished neighborhoods – is down 20 percent. By 2016, the domestic discretionary spending will be at the lowest level in relation to the economy since they began keeping track in 1962.”

Also, Republicans and their Tea Party fringe could once more threaten the nation’s credit standing. The debt limit will be reached soon.

“We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures on or about Thursday, November 5,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote Boehner. “Without sufficient cash, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history.”

That’s a bit more than 50 days.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted obstructionist Republicans as destructive.

“The Treasury Secretary’s letter is a stark warning of the stakes of Republicans’ Calendar of Chaos,” commented U.S. Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Failure to protect the full faith and credit of the United States would have a devastating impact on hard-working families across the country – including tumbling retirement savings and rising interest rates for student loans, mortgages, credit cards and car payments.”

If Republicans force another shutdown:
* The economy could suffer and Wall Street could get nervous. After the 16-day shutdown in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act, the financial ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said that shutdown “has taken $24 billion out of the economy.” Last month, TD Ameritrade commented, “For market participants, how the U.S. handles near-term budget issues and longer-term debt-ceiling challenges could factor into already high-volatility trading.”
* National security would be at risk.
“It’s urgent that we inform the American people of the threats to our national security of another government shutdown,” said U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sept. 29.

Talking to the New York Times, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) was pessimistic.

“November and December are going to be like Dante’s ‘Inferno’ around here,” Pascrell said.

And Illinoisans are unfortunately familiar with what hellhounds can unleash when irresponsible leaders make unreasonable demands.

The press should be tell more stories about the budget-busters’ threats to our economies and fewer yarns about squirrels.

[PICTURED: Photo from AFSCME.]

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