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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

The Selective Shutdown

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

The National Park Service informed charter boat captains that the Florida Bay was “closed.” Fishing boat captains cannot travel into 1,100 square-miles of open ocean. Fishing is also prohibited at Biscayne National Park. Apparently, the fish have been furloughed, too. According to an anonymous Park Service ranger, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

This essay is available in its entirety to all visitors. Enjoy!

October, 2013:

If you have been paying any attention to the news, you have probably heard more about the federal government shutdown that you care to. But I've got some facts and some analysis that I'll bet is news to you. And I want you to tell me how the shutdown is affecting you. This is going to be interesting!

What's Happening?

Since the Congress and the president could not come to an agreement on spending our tax dollars, the feds cannot legally spend money on “discretionary” items. Oh, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare payments, critical military functions, the TSA, the NSA, the White House chefs... they are covered by “automatic” payments. So, what's left? Let's take a look.

The media told us that last Monday, 800,000 federal workers were furloughed. Eight hundred thousand public servants — out of service! That's scary, until you learn that there are 4,300,000 people employed by the federal government and paid with our tax dollars. So 800,000 is only about 18% of the bunch. Then, over the weekend, Defense Secretary Hagel found a way to call back about 350,000 of them.

(Oh, all of the unfortunate furloughed government employees will be paid... eventually. Right now, they're kinda' like IRS official Lois Lerner, who had a paid vacation for about five months before she wisely resigned.)

The “shutdown” first affected me when I went to the web site that I use to check my watch – www.time.gov:

The web site normally displays the government's super-accurate clock, which, I assume, continues to run automatically on batteries during the shutdown. But the web site that displays the time – which also runs automatically — nope; no can do. "No time for you!"

The media made some fuss about the WWII Memorial being shut down. The memorial is located on the Washington Mall. Automatic fountain, automatic lights... but no doors, no locks, no hat check girl. It's essentially an open-air grass and concrete park. Why did the president insist on shutting it down?

(And do not be deceived; the decisions on discretionary spending are controlled by the president. Not the Congress, not the Tea Party, not Ted Cruz, not Rush Limbaugh... the president.)

A group of WWII vets that had flown hundreds of miles to visit their memorial were met with iron barricades at the entrance. One of them noted, “Normandy was closed when we arrived, too.” Result was much the same 70 years later. They knocked the barricades away and claimed the memorial from the enemy.

This may offer a clue to the president's motive: The GW Parkway is a scenic road that runs along the Potomac River in nearby Virginia. There are several scenic overlooks on the parkway – small pull-off areas where motorists can briefly park their cars and enjoy the view. Closed. All of them. No lights; no fountain, no locks, no hat-check girl. It's just pavement and grass. The park police spent hours setting up barricades to block people from pulling off the road. “No view for you!”

The Internet-based Amber Alert web site, where people can obtain information on missing children? Closed.

UPDATE: After we posted this story on Monday, the feds yanked someone back from furlough and restored amberalert.gov. Cowards... cowards and phonies, all of them!

Oh, and the panda-cam... the web cam that was set up at the National Zoo to show the baby panda that was born there recently. Unitl last week, the camera ran, unattended, requiring no attention or maintenance. Nothing. But it took a work order and a government worker to disable it. And disable it they did. No panda-cam for any of us!

Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” web site, which provides information on nutrition and fitness for kiddies.... no shutdown there. This is a critical government function! After all, if the stuff that kids eat is not the essential business of the federal government, what on earth is?

National Parks... from Yosemite National Park to the Washington Memorial... all of them closed, just in time for the fall tourist season.

The National Park Service informed charter boat captains that the Florida Bay was “closed.” Fishing boat captains cannot travel into 1,100 square-miles of open ocean. Fishing is also prohibited at Biscayne National Park during the shutdown.

Apparently, the fish have been furloughed, too. That's the only explanation I can come up with.

According to an anonymous Park Service ranger, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

Military college football games... well, first canceled, then un-canceled... for this weekend only. Find the rationale in that decision, if you can.

The NFL? Strictly a private entity, huh? Well, tell that to U.S. military people stationed overseas. “No NFL TV for you!”

Oh, but paychecks to the president and the members of Congress? Were they “shut down”? What do you think?

How about the IRS? No surprise there. On the IRS web site:

The IRS will accept and process all tax returns with payments, but will be unable to issue refunds during this time.

What do you suppose the logic behind that is?

Poor Richard: We have a subscriber to our newsletter who uses a USDA e-mail address. As far as we know, e-mail runs automatically. How much does it cost to process e-mail? Apparently, too much. On Monday, we received this “bounceback” to the newsletter we sent him:

Due to budgetary concerns, email has been disabled. Please contact your Represenative for guidance.

Gees, this is spread through all the tentacles of government all over the world. How much money and how much time do you suppose it took to coordinate all of this... to set up all the electronic and physical gates to the government that we own? How much time? How much money?

But fear not... Michelle Obama's government web site, www.letsmove.gov, remains fully functional!

The Biggest Loser

So, if the “shutdown” affects only 17% of the federal dollars spent, and only 10% of federal workers, why are the Washington insiders and the media in such a tizzy? Why do they describe it as if it's the end of the world?

I have two explanations.

It is primarily because the segment of the country that comprises much of the affected dollars and workers reside in Washington. It is primarily their “ox” that is being gored, and sissies that they are, they are staging a hissy fit.

Second, the media and the president want you to think that it is the end of the world. If we can “limp” by for a week, or two weeks, or perhaps a month without all of this government, maybe we can get by permanently without it! Perhaps... just perhaps, we can survive just fine with a little less government.

And what a precedent THAT would set!

Your Turn

Maybe I am missing something. I'm curious. Please help me. Why do you think that the president has chosen to close the WWII memorial, the national parks, the Amber Alert web site, the Florida Bay, etc., etc., etc.?

OK, what is the primary reason these places are closed?

They are too expensive to keep open.
They are too complicated to keep open.
They are not in the public interest.
They present a security threat.
The luck of the draw.
The president is deliberately hitting the
          people "where it hurts."

Other reason; or add a comment:

OK; one more thing. And this is important. Please briefly explain if and in what ways has the mis-named “shutdown” negatively affected you?

Has (or how as) the shutdown affected you?

Class dismissed.


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