Another stealth shutdown

One of the favorite oldie-but-goodie putdowns that anti-feds drag out from time to time is “what if there is a government shutdown and nobody noticed?” Get it?

(Sound of knees slapping and high-fives).

The idea behind the ancient putdown, which has been traced to ancient Babylon, is that the government does so little when it is running at full speed that if it stopped hardly anybody would notice. (The concept is not as funny if you are flying cross-country, 6 miles up in the air, depending on federal workers to get you from point A to point B in time and, better still, in one piece.

But silly things often happen.

And one did during the transition period from Thursday to Friday when the government shut down but hardly anybody noticed. Technically, the shutdown lasted only about 8 hours: From the time Congress passed a compromise budget bill until whomever dares wake the president each morning woke the president and he signed it. Thus ending the shutdown hardly anybody noticed. If you went to bed at a decent hour Thursday night, you slept right through the closure and the opening. That compares to the shutdown we had last month which lasted roughly 69 hours from midnight Friday until sometime Monday afternoon.

The headline in the home delivery edition of Friday’s The Washington Post said: “Sen. Paul, Budget Roadblocks Spur Another Shutdown.” That was true when the newspaper went to press but old news (by several hours) by the time the newspaper was actually delivered to your home or office in the D.C. area. The 2-year budget deal missed its midnight deadline because Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised various objections over spending.

Paul is a fiscal conservative for sure. He may also be one of those politicians who don’t fully realize the impact the federal workforce, its payroll and duties, have in their home districts or states. Kentucky’s population (about 4.5 million) is smaller than the population (6 million plus) of the metro Washington area. It has around 38,000 federal workers with an average salary of about $65,000. Many are civilians with the Defense Department. Uncle Sam — as in Fort Knox, Fort Campbell, the Lexington Medical Center and a large concentration of IRS employees in the Covington-Newport area.

Because of the confusion, most agencies (apparently including the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget) didn’t post anything on their websites because of the delay between passage of the budget bill and it being signed into law some 6 hours later.

While the confusion isn’t the government’s (at least the executive branches) fault, it makes everybody associated with government look bad. That’s fine for Congress, because their failure to act until the last minute is often what triggers a shutdown. It is not right for people/taxpayers who are left hanging. Or told to come into work so they can be told to go home. Or to those forced to work during a shutdown. Or to those wondering whether or when they are going to be paid for working. Or not working.

Anyhow now it is official. After two stealth shutdowns this year the government is open for business.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams, a Babel fish is a small fish that feeds on brainwave energy, absorbs information from the speech centers of a person’s brain and excretes telepathically what they mean. In other words, if you stick a Babel fish in your ear, you can understand what other people are saying.

Source: Wikipedia