Lights Out All Gone

by Ouida on October 1, 2013


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One of my colleagues and I delivered a baby this morning.  When we got to the hospital at 4 AM this morning, lights were on, nurses were on duty, patients were there needing to be seen.  The government is shut down, but no one told the baby we delivered and no one told the patients in our Emergency Department.

I was wrong, the total number of employees who will be furloughed at 0800 this morning is 800,000.  These are people who, through no fault of their own except maybe being a federal employee, will go without pay and sit at home because of the whims of Congress.  Congress of course will continue to get paid due to the 27th amendment.   Economically, at least, they will never feel the pain of their actions this week.

The total number of Federal Employees? 3,400,000.  2.6 million of whom will report to work and not get paid until this mess is resolved.  Pay may not happen even then as Congress has to agree to allow back pay to occur. Did you know that Uncle Sam is this country’s largest employer? I didn’t. I thought it was Walmart. So what happens when the nation’s largest employer shuts down and the unemployment rate is 7.3%? Guess we will find out.

While the shutdown started this morning, the Affordable Health Care Act will move forward in implementation any way.

The crazy thing?  The Affordable Health Care Act and the Federal Budget actually had nothing to do with one another.  Here is what I mean.  Congress and the President have to pass a budget by the beginning of each fiscal year.  The fiscal year starts October 1st.  Barring an actual budget (and we haven’t had one of those at the start of the new fiscal year in I don’t know how long), Congress passes a temporary spending plan to continue the prior year’s spending.  Was there mention of the Affordable Health Care Act in last year’s spending?  Uh…no…

The Affordable Health Care Act isn’t tied to congressional appropriations they way the national parks (Liberty Island is closing by the way…how’s that for symbolism?) and the DOD are, but is funded through targeted tax increases (like Medicare and Social Security) which are slowly being phased in.  One of those tax increases is scheduled to go into effect January 2014 and will affect me.  I’m not thrilled about it as I outline in my Regarding Henry Post, but the health exchanges are a good idea.  I will probably be using one some day.

What has happened is similar to this:  Two business men meet to discuss dam safety.  One is wearing an avocado green polyester suite and he just also happens to have a solution to our growing dam safety problem.  The other is wearing traditional gray, wool with a red power tie.  He knows the dams are stressed and cracked but won’t admit it publicly.  Mr. Gray refuses to meet with Mr. Green until Mr. Green takes off his suit.  Mr. Green wonders why discussion of his clothing is even relevant as he has a plan that will address the dam safety problem, so he refuses.  Mr. Gray continues to refuse to meet with Mr. Green. He doesn’t have a plan, but figures the dams are ok enough for now;  if there is a real problem, though, folks down stream from a suspect dam can just call emergency services.  Mr. Green wondered what kind of man he would be if he changed his clothes in order to have a discussion about dam safety.  Mr. Gray says that he is representing the interests behind him who hate the color green.

While the two men bicker, a dam breaks.  Mr. Green wears his green suit to the flood site to survey the damage.  Mr. Gray changes his tie from red to blue and goes to the site as well.  He realizes that collateral damage was greater than he anticipated.  The interests he represented are all upstream from the dam and are unharmed, but he did not realize that some of his interests above the dam depended on those below the dam.

He realizes that there are no emergency services big enough to clean up the mess.

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