Good thing I was Inside the Beltway last week. I strolled the full circle of the Tidal Basin, keeping a watchful eye on the cherry blossoms that were in full bloom. I made my way to the Jefferson and FDR memorials. And I toured several of the Smithsonian museums, wary of the rug rats and other miscreants who were visiting while most likely on spring break.
And nary a dollar changed hands — until I stopped mid-day for a cold brew. Everything — except the beer — was gratis, courtesy of Uncle Sam who knows how to treat visitors and residents of the nation’s capital. Note to self: Maybe Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is up for reelection in 2012, should look into the beer issue. For a senior citizen like me on a fixed income it seems like paying for beer (or a couple double Jamesons, for that matter) while Inside the Beltway represents the kind of financial hardship that should be addressed. Just sayin’.
Anyway, it’s hard to believe that Prez O and the guys and gals in Congress are going to shut down the federal government at the stroke of midnight. This strikes me as the equivalent of a contentious union-management negotiation where both parties put their egos on display and huff and puff right up until the last minute and then make a deal.
But we’ll see. I recognize that there are big differences — among elected officials and their bosses (yeah, that means us as voters) — about the role and scope of government in general and about the federal deficit and the amount of government spending. Then put into the mix major policy differences about where we should be spending the money, if at all: Planned Parenthood, NPR, EPA and free brew for seniors while in DC (oops, I digress) and so on.
Anyway, there are plenty of stories online and in dead tree media about the consequences of a federal shutdown. Here’s one, from NPR, “How A Government Shutdown Would Play Out“:
The nation’s military forces would continue working in the event of a government shutdown, senior government officials said Wednesday, but they would be expected to forego receiving any pay until Congress approves a budget for the current fiscal year.
But as many as 800,000-plus civilian federal workers — including those employed by the Department of Defense — would be furloughed if the government shuts down Friday at midnight for lack of funding.
As Congress and the White House continued today to negotiate on a budget while time ticks down to the end of the government’s current budget authority, the officials, who spoke on background, laid out how a shutdown would affect departments and agencies.
The Federal Housing Administration, for example, would stop processing loan guarantees, affecting about 30 percent of the housing market, the officials said. And the Small Business Administration would stop processing direct small business loans.
Tax refunds for paper-filers would also be delayed. National Parks and Smithsonian Institution museums would close. And the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, scheduled for Saturday in Washington, D.C., would be cancelled.
I guess if push comes to shove we can live without the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. But I have some problems not paying members of the military while the politicians are dithering over a budget that should have been settled a year ago when the Dems controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Note to the bean counters in Congress: We’re fighting at least three wars — if Libya is still on the map — and that is one of the reasons why bucks are tight and deficits are big. Sigh.
Anyway, like most people not directly involved with a federal program or federal paycheck, I’ve looked at this whole fiasco as pretty much of a national circle jerk — right up to the point where it could strike home in my own backyard.
If the federal government goes dark at midnight, some persumably essential government worker is going to be putting a lock on the parking lots and barring entrance to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Here’s from the Akron Beacon Journal, “Cuyahoga Valley National Park will close without new federal budget“:
Without a new federal budget, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park will be closed to the public starting Saturday.
The closure, announced Wednesday by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., would affect visitors centers, programs and even park trails and facilities. Parking lots would be locked.
Such a sweeping closure is necessary and warranted, said Park Service spokesman David Barna.
In addition, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad would cease to run until federal budget issues are resolved, said train spokesman Steven Wait.
The railroad runs Saturdays and Sundays for tourists and Thursdays and Fridays for school groups.
The Park Service owns the track; the railroad owns the engines and passenger cars.
Under the Park Service guidelines, law enforcement rangers would remain on duty in the Cuyahoga Valley park, but interpretive rangers would not.
The national park gets about 2.5 million visitors annually. It employs 97 permanent staffers and 124 temporary staffers with an operating budget of about $10.9 million per year.
Oh mama. In another several months spring will be here in Northeast Ohio. And I enjoy riding my bike and running in the national park a short distance from my house. The prospect of not being able to do that this year while the pols are arguing about abortion, clean air and public radio, well, that’s enough to make John Boehner weep.