Countdown to shutdown

April 6, 2011 1:44:24 PM PDT
If you came to Washington to shake things up, and that's all you care about and that's your only goal as an elected official, then you're one of the peeps who are right now nonplussed by all the talk - and the real fear - of a government shutdown.

And why would you feel anything else, really?

If your goal is to slash and cut spending and taxes, reducing the size of government, and eliminating the trillions that are spent on programs that have been viewed as sacrosanct, then pushing the limits gets you pumped.

The federal budget is about $14 trillion, and those who are in the ring are haggling over a few billion. A trillion is 1,000 billion. If you have $100 - and let's say that reps the budgets - we're talking about a few pennies.

So it's more than the money that's at stake. More than the money that's spent on this group or that, on NPR or Planned Parenthood. It's about the power to control the money. That's the bottom line - literally and figuratively.

But it's not groups that will be affected by a shutdown. It's people. The people who are served, and the people who do the serving. Like the folks in the military - no paychecks. Nearly a million government workers - too many perhaps - will not take home their average $1,404 a week. And important clinical trials that could save someone's life might come to a halt.

And talk about trickle down economics - what's the multiplier effect of every dollar that a worker doesn't get? I think we've seen that during the recession that's not yet over.

The last time the Republicans forced a shutdown of the federal government was in 1995, and it inarguably helped the Democrats to victory the next year. There are some GOP'ers who acknowledge that they risk the seats they gained in last fall's election; but that's not why they came to the Capital, they say - to just make sure they get re-elected.

It's easy to criticize, just blow everything up, and damn the consequences. Easy if you're doing the blowing up. Not so much if you're the one feeling the explosion.

The hourglass is emptying, with a possible shutdown coming as early as this weekend. We'll see. We'll have the latest on the battle that is over so much more than just money, tonight at 11. Oh, just by chance, Pres. Obama is taking a timeout from his negotiations over the budget, to keynote Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network convention gala tonight in Midtown Manhattan. We suspect he'll have a thing or 12 to say about the battle.

Also at 11, Lisa Colagrossi takes a remarkable look at all the information about you that's accumulating because of your cable TV box. It's pretty amazing stuff.


PS. No column on Thursday and Friday, but it will resume on Monday.

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