Thursday, April 07, 2011

FedGov Shutdown

I'm darkly tickled to hear that Democrats and Republicans are both flinching from the so-called shutdown of the Federal Government -- not for any noble reason, like worrying a defense contractor or snail darter or your gramma will be harmed but because they're both afraid they'll be blamed.

What they're lacking is called "spine." Not only do they not have it, they don't want it.

I wrote "so-called" shutdown, since whatever Washington considers "essential services" will keep right on percolating. Unsurprisingly, the portion of the IRS that receives your tax payment is considered essential -- but the part that sends you a refund check if you overpaid is not. (Tam points out that the parts that are non-essential might as well be auctioned off: "There you go. Budget balanced, problem solved.") (National parks? Let WWF and the various Green organizations run the parks, Disney can run the lodges and public access -- and we can have retired Federal judges arbitrate between 'em, funded by both sides. I've been on the slow-mo automotive lockstep through Yellowstone; we could hardly do much worse.)

The local TV news grimly observed the Feds are the area's largest or second-largest employer (I was half-awake and they didn't put the story on their website. Foo!) There's a problem with that, too: if you're operating the darned thing (er, "our mighty and noble Federal government") on taxpayer dollars, as the number of Federal employees becomes an increasingly greater percentage of the taxpayer base, y'kinda start running out of dollars -- of course, the Feds have a fix for that, one as old as paper money: print more. The Chinese tried that, not too long after inventing paper and printing. It didn't work then and the inexorable laws of economics haven't changed in the intervening centuries. Come to think if it, it's already been done here, too -- look up "Not worth a Continental." That left a mark.

But if you're concerned about the looming shutdown of the Federal government, don't worry; your legislators, no matter their party or inclination, aren't looking brave enough to try it. When these folks play chicken, they like to quit early. Oh, they may stumble and fumble their way into a few days of impasse, especially if they can figure out how to make it look like an accident, but don't look for anything lasting, or any rhetoric on a level higher than kindergartners in a mutual-blame circle. I'd suggest sending them white feathers but you know some fraction of the poor dears will turn out to have allergies and we'd be scolded by their Moms for insensitivity -- or by the FBI, which comes to much the same thing.


Tango Juliet said...

heh! Spot on again!

North said...

Cutbacks because of gross federal mismanagement have already caused job loss close to me. They might be the much hated "federal jobs", but they were Americans that held those jobs.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Sell Yellowstone to Disney and there won't be "automotive lockstep", because they'll build a monorail through it :)

perlhaqr said...

North: And now those Americans have a chance to get jobs that involve getting paid to do something people want done, instead of something people pay to have done under threat of prison.

That's gotta be better for their self-esteem than being the kid who gets put on a dodge-ball team at recess because the teacher won't let the game start until someone takes him.

North said...

perlhaqr: It was very easy for you to assume all the things that you just did. That "those people" were not doing a useful job, that they don't have self-esteem. You just chose to look down on them because you can. Pretty damned lame.

I'm not in a position to describe these jobs, or the fine people I know, but since you made assumptions that they were not worthy of their employment solely because they were fed employees... Yeah, I'll just leave it at that.

perlhaqr said...

If their jobs are so all fired important and useful, why do people have to be forced to support their positions?

You wanna go toe to toe about 'because I can', as though I'm speaking from some position of privilege here? I've been unemployed for 27 months, if you count the 2 week contract I had in December of 2008 as a break from unemployment, or a full three years if you don't, and hearken back to the last full time contract I had. And that's because I have refused to work for either direct federal positions, such as one of the national laboratories in my skills as a computer geek, or for any of the fabrication shops around town as a machinist or welder, because everyone big enough to hire employees does piece work for the labs. If you think it's easy to live up to "Thou shalt not steal" and really mean it, you're vastly mistaken.

So cry me a river about these poor put upon souls who won't have their federal jobs any more. I have precisely zero sympathy.

wolfwalker said...

I wrote "so-called" shutdown, since whatever Washington considers "essential services" will keep right on percolating.

Um, not entirely. At least, not as I understand it. This isn't like the last 'shutdown,' in which some stuff got closed while other stuff (like the military) kept running. In 1995-96, around half the budget was passed, including the defense appropriations bill, and only the other half 'shut down.' This time around, nothing has been passed. The only stuff that will keep running is the stuff that's largely automated (like tax e-filing) and the stuff that has independent sources of income (like the post orifice with its stamps and other mailing fees). Even the military is under the gun -- that's why the House took the time today to pass a stopgap measure that would fund everything for a week except the Defense Department, which it would fund for the rest of the year.

Roberta X said...

I'm just quoting what they put out on the wire services. --It's all lies; if any of it was essential, there'd be commercial competitors. That's how you can tell the Post Office is essential -- and Congress is not.

North said...

perlhaqr: A lot of people would love to be in the position to refuse to work. I doubt that they would have any sympathy for you.

RobertaX: "if any of it was essential, there'd be commercial competitors."

Too simple of a test. By that logic Law Enforcement is non essential. Darn it - there are laws against me pulling people over for speeding, even if I would do it for less.

I see what people say when they wave their hands about and talk in general. The details and reality are a lot more insidious. I'm backing out of this, though. Too painful, right now.

"That's how you can tell the Post Office is essential -- and Congress is not."

Love that, though! :-)

Roberta X said...

North, do you believe that speeding per se is a crime?

North said...

What if I don't?

Do you believe every job loss because of a budget cut is a non essential job?

Roberta X said...

If it wasn't, how could they cut it? --It was probably (almost certainly) essential to the person who had it; but none of us are owed jobs.

I'm not saying anything at all about the workers; it has been my experience that many public-sector employees are are skilled, dedicated, etc. as any other worker.

That doesn't mean what they are doing needs doing, any more than a worker at a factory making 8-track players would be in this age of mp3 players.

Sendarius said...

North, are you SURE that there are laws against pulling someone over for speeding?

I don't mean conventions, understandings, and the wrath of the blue-suits and black-robes, I mean actual black-letter law that says: "Thou shalt not .... "

The police exercise (for pay) the DELEGATED powers of the citizenry to enforce the law, and prevent crime. They get to do that because the citizens are either too busy doing other stuff, or insufficiently skilled, and agree to pay instead of play.

A junior manager with DELEGATED authority to approve expenditure does not limit the CEO's right to authorise spending of company money.

Similarly, the fact that police are granted DELEGATED powers of arrest does not mean that MY rights and obligations as a citizen, from which those powers originate, are in any way diminished - it only SEEMS that way because we let it happen.

North said...

RX: "If it wasn't, how could they cut it?"

If it was an unnecessary position, how could they create it? Could some elected official(s) make the mistake of eliminating necessary programs because he thought they were not necessary? Or eliminate it for political reasons?

I've worked for companies that slash a budget thinking that the fat will be removed from automatically. Nope. A red pen isn't going to solve this problem.

Sendarius: I would think "Impersonating an officer" would stick. Should I write a ticket on a post-it note? I'll let YOU test your theory.

Roberta X said...

"Government" does not equal "company."

Instead of fighting, I'd rather assert that we all have our own opinions, clever or damfool or whatever. I am, by inclination and choice, an anarchist, and while I realize many other folks feel as nervous as old maids at the though of a lot less government, let alone none at all, it doesn't change my opinions.

It freaks me out to have Teh Gummint looming over every darn thing I say, do, or -- these days -- even think and yet somehow I bear up.

So please try to bear up under my opinion that most jobs FedGov does either do not really need doing, or could be done a lot more effectively by smallish, for-profit companies.

That is not saying your Federally-employed friends were or are slackers, frauds or malfeasors (malfeasants?); they probably worked both hard and skilfully at regulating mines, stacking up flood-control dams, keeping Social Security paperwork flowing, tasting river water, building H-bombs and other FedGov work that needs doing; but the necessity for most of it was created by the Federal government in the first place. Had it not been around, your friends would be doing other things -- and we would probably not be in an economic redepression right now.

The Feds will go bankrupt. The only question is will it be now or will it be later, when we're all even older and less able to cope?

North said...

"Instead of fighting"

I wanted to say that in my last post - I should have. We can certainly get annoyed at each other in little text postings. And I don't want that.

I agree with you a whole lot more then the impression that you have.

The government needs to be significantly smaller. Gov't size reduction needs to be done differently than this, though.

A bad analogy - I need to lose 50 pounds. Diet and exercise will lead to a better solution than declaring my legs unnecessary and lobbing off my legs and replacing them with wheels. Craptastic description, but you get my point, I'm sure.

I refuse to trust that government will make reasonable choices regulating government.

Gah. This is hurting me a lot right now and I had already promised Tam I'd stop posting about it. RX: You know my email address so if you want to take this off line (I doubt you want to) we can discuss it that way.

Roberta X said...

I think our only real disagreement is how much FedStuff is actual "leg" vs. stuff we'd never miss if it was liposuctioned away.

North said...

My annoyance stems from seeing bloody legs because some elected fruitbasket has a running chain saw.

Yes X can be done privately. The gov just decided to no longer do X. No private company will step in, because of a ton of expensive restrictions and regulations. The effort to reduce budget doesn't remove the restrictions.

Thanks, Roberta. You are a good cookie.

perlhaqr said...

A lot of people would love to be in the position to refuse to work.

This is going to sound snarky, but I actually intend it as a serious question: Do you have any ethics that you take really seriously? Like, no kidding, I won't do that on pain of death?

Because that's how this is for me. There's no "position to refuse to work" about it, I'm incapable of not refusing to work, if it requires mugging my fellow man to support me.

I have yet to reach a point where I have to get a job flipping burgers to survive, but I'd do that before I took tax money. YMMV.

North said...

"This is going to sound snarky"

Nah. Just holier-than-thou.

Roberta X said...

"Yes X can be done privately. The gov just decided to no longer do X. No private company will step in, because of a ton of expensive restrictions and regulations. The effort to reduce budget doesn't remove the restrictions."

Nor does your example, actually get the (Federal) government out of the X business: they're still in it, with a corps of paid regulators.

In all seriousness, I am having trouble coming up with an example where the "Federal product" isn't regulations and the Federal employers aren't either regulators or their tools. Park rangers, maybe? Nuke waste disposal, of which they're both not doing the job and actively barring other entrants? Space transportation? --Hell, they had that down with Apollo and then piddled it away on the boondoggled, crummily-engineered Shuttle. We went from having a space station and no way to get there, to a way to get there but no station, a brief interlude where it all matched up and now we're back to a station but no transportion (except a Russian cab ride, bless their recently-capitalist-ized hearts).

Look, it sucks when people lose their jobs; and you can count on a government -- any of them, anywhere, any time -- to do cutbacks in the most stupid and awkward way. But the sun still rises, despite the worst governments can do.

Sendarius said...

North, your response that a possible charge of "impersonating an officer" is an impediment to a citizen stopping someone for speeding kind of makes my point.

At no time did I suggest that the hypothetical citizen pretend to be a PO, but I did allude to the acceptance in society that ONLY police have this power.

Police DO have the power to stop someone for speeding, but that power stems from the delegated rights and responsibilities of the people. I contend that citizens also have this power, inherent in their status as citizens.

I see this as little different to how the recognised power/authority of the police to shoot a person committing a violent felony does not diminish your rights to do the same when facing felonious assault on yourself or others (in most states :)).

I accept that it DOES work differently - maybe it's the distinction between malum prohibitum and malum per se .

Drang said...

do you believe that speeding per se is a crime?
Per se? No, speeding is malum prohibitum, or however it's spelled.
But reckless endangerment could be considered malum in se, which could/would be a legitimate justification for getting folks to keep the velocity to a (specified) minimum.


Geodkyt said...

North --

You've never heard of private security?

Power of arrest, etc., only they can only perform thier duties on teh property they are paid to do it for.

Even FedGov hires them for some roles, where its cheaper than actual sworn Federal officers.