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United States Government The Almighty Buck Politics

Slashdot Asks: How Does the US Gov't Budget Crunch Affect You? 1144

Posted by timothy
from the cold-turkey-is-delicious dept.
The partial government shut-down that the U.S. is experiencing right now is about to enter its second week. Various government functions and services have been disrupted (including some web sites, whether it's a good idea or not), and lots of workers on the Federal payroll have been furloughed. But since the U.S. government is involved in so many aspects of modern American life, you don't have to work for the government to be affected by the budget politics at play. So, whether or not you work for the government in any capacity, the question we'd like to hear your answer to is this: What does the shutdown mean to you, in practical terms, whether the effects are good, bad, or indifferent?
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Slashdot Asks: How Does the US Gov't Budget Crunch Affect You?

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  • How I see it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:30PM (#45053883)

    I work at McChord AFB (Joint Base Lewis McChord). The last âoefurloughâ, I did not work and so was not paid. They spread the days out such that you could not get unemployment. As well, we could not use earned leave (even though that's my leave which they must pay me for anyway).

    This time around, I was classified as a âoemission essentialâ employee, so I have to work or lose my job. But I will be paid retroactively, and not until the budget is passed. So again, no pay and because I am working, no unemployment or other low income services.

    The thing is, for some reason a lot of people think that Federal employees all make six figures. It isn't so. The vast majority make $50,000 or less. I'm not complaining about my pay scale. But having lost around $2500 in savings with the last âoefurloughâ, my accounts are a bit thin.

    I wonder if my landlord and the electric company will take âoeretroactiveâ payments? I suspect not. As my wife has MS, we are a single income family. And again, I'm not complaining about my pay rate, I took this job, no one twisted my arm. Fortunatly for me, I have a large family that will pitch in and help me out. Others are not so fortunate, this will hurt a lot of worker bees.

    The only good thing out of this is that the Republicans â" most of whom would vote to end this if Boehner would allow a vote â" are slitting their own throats because they are scared of a minority of Tea Baggers. Next election, the House will belong to the Democrats, and the Tea Baggers will return home frothing at the mouth. Good for them.

    The republicans have *always* relied on the votes of the stupid, by telling them that they (the Republicans - the greedy business elite) are just like them and are on their side. Now their dupes are the govt-haters who don't want to pay their taxes. Not long ago it was the bible thumpers and Jesus lovers, who hoped the "moral" Republicans would put down those pinko atheist Democrats. Before that, before they changed their name, the Republicans were âoeSouthern Democratsâ who yelled "The niggers are taking over and want to marry your lily-white daughter." The Republican politicians are just careerists who take money from the elite in order to remain in office. *Their* goal is power and the perks.

    • Re:How I see it... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:51PM (#45053999)

      This time around, I was classified as a "mission essential" employee, so I have to work or lose my job. But I will be paid retroactively, and not until the budget is passed. So again, no pay and because I am working, no unemployment or other low income services.

      My sister works at Madigan Hospital (which is part of JBLM), and is in the same situation - working with the promise of retroactive pay. If the shutdown is short, it's not a huge deal... but if it drags on, I wonder if her bank will defer her mortgage payments? Likely not...

      The son of a friend is a civilian helicopter mechanic attached to the base. He isn't "essential", so he's currently not working and not bringing in income.

      Long story short - it doesn't affect me directly, but it is having significant negative impact on people I care about.

    • Re:How I see it... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:29PM (#45054785) Homepage Journal

      Two items:

      First, the main impact on me and many of my friends is the close of federal lands and parks. The gates are closed and if they find a vehicle outside them or people within, you will be fined. Impact pretty minimal, so far.

      Second, to address the "stupid" people republicans are catering to ... Not all. There are good, decent conservatives who care about their country and work diligently to keep it on track. But there are also some, and we see this particularly during tense times, such as elections or battles on Capitol Hill, where there is pandering to emotional, hot-button issues. The party has mostly gone from a platform on conservative government, to Anti-Abortion, Anti-Gay Rights, Anti-Gun control, no healthcare contraceptives for women, cut taxes on the top 1% to create jobs (where there has been no evidence of a connection between the two), anti-big-government (the federal government has grown very large under Reagan and G. W. Bush, Clinton actually reduced federal payrolls and headcount by terminating offices which were running beyond their mandate), anti-fuel economy, anti-environment, dismissing Global Warming, and so on. But they abandoned any claim to a fiscally conservative party with the bulk of the national debt accumulated under Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. It is far from what old-school republicans call the GOP. One old timer told me they were all democrats, in the way they carry on. I don't know, I think my brother and a few other people have hit the nail on the head with this assessment: They are a party of people to whom winning is the only thing that matters, if they lose it was because the Democrats somehow cheated them and they will redouble their efforts to win next time (often using some underhanded tactics). I don't think people are stupid, voting for anyone, but I do think a great many are poorly informed or make poor decisions, particularly when they let other people, such as Limbaugh do their thinking (and brainwashing) for them. Critical Thinking isn't taught in schools and it shows. To many people think Sara Palin is brilliant, while she's just a wind up artist who couldn't even run Alaska right.

      what the fox are you talking about?

    • I wonder if my landlord and the electric company will take Ãoeretroactiveà payments? I suspect not.

      Two words: credit.

      Actually, three more: fix your keyboard.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:24PM (#45055185)

      I have before worked for an employer who said he could not pay me for a while, but I should keep working.

      That happened a few times over a few years. Eventually I got my money back but it took a long time and there was a significant back pay that floated for a year.

      So knowing that was a pattern, what did I do? I left to find other work.

      Government is NO DIFFERENT. If you are going to obviously be screwed over every time the Government needs to figure out a yearly budget (hint: they can't) or bump against the debt ceiling (hint: very often), then you need to LEAVE.

      You didn't say if you were enlisted or not but it seems like not. Most people take government jobs because they are easier but if you are not liking this new tradeoff you need to leave, which is what every worker in the private sector would generally do... the mistake is thinking that delayed pay and worse is something that only happens to government workers during a furlough, because in real life it happens to people quite often.

      I hope more government workers figure this out, and fast - and that it takes the shine of government work for others also.

  • Telemarketers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Dodd (1868704) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:35PM (#45053903)
    Well, I've subjectively seen one effect -- a huge spike in the number of telemarker calls I've received in the past week, apparently due to no longer being able to report them to the DO NOT CALL registry (which is shutdown due to the gov't shutdown).
  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:41PM (#45053943)

    ...I've been affected by the way that the "leader of the free world" has once again demonstrated its disdain for democracy: if the right wing don't like something passed by representatives of the people, it seems they can just deny everything else. If I can't keep a few million of you in desperation, FUCK YOU I'M TAKING MY BALL HOME, &c.

    I look forward to my country following this awful example.

    • by diamondmagic (877411) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:54PM (#45054027) Homepage

      In US terminology, it's the "left wing" that's voting down the proposed budgets to continue funding the Federal government. But even then, that's really a misnomer.

      The Constitution only allows the House to originate bills for spending and taxing - and under the control of the Republican party, they're only originating bills that don't fund Obamacare. The Democrat-controlled Senate and White House are voting down and threatening to veto these budgets, and thus the partial government "shutdown".

      I don't like the omnibus budgets, just 30 years ago Congress used to fund the government by "legislation by appropriation", many individual bills voted on individually, instead of all or nothing. But besides this, I rather enjoy the fact that all the arms of government must agree, before money can be taxed and spent, or before someone can be thrown in prison, etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Obamacare was already voted by the representatives of the people. Refusing to fund it is ignoring the will of the people.

        The monopoly on origination of spending&taxing bills has also been recently abused in the UK by the Commons to stop measures which the one house doesn't like. It's a corruption which could ultimately be used to override nearly any law, because 1) Nearly every measure costs money; 2) the House could just refuse to budget for *anything* in particular until *any* law it doesn't like is r

    • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:13PM (#45055105)

      Way I read it is this: Congress passed a budget, president then says "I don't like this budget. Give me what I want or government shuts down." So, government shuts down.

  • by Orp (6583) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:52PM (#45054013) Homepage
    Honestly, the most this whole mess has affected me, a college professor at a state university, is to fill my head with thoughts of taking my bare hands and strangle the life out of some of these yahoos in Washington. I know of many people who have been furloughed, as I am involved in federally funded research and have many colleagues who work under the umbrella of the federal gov't, some of whom have been furloughed, some of whom have not. My thoughts lately are about the looming debt ceiling "crisis" and how perhaps we are truly approaching the moment with the United States of America goes the way of every other superpower the world has ever seen... only we still have nukes and billions of guns. Sadly, if this happens, it will have come from within, not the result of a worthy enemy. And make no mistake about it: Pull away the curtain and this is all the doings of the ultra-rich who are pulling the strings. These people have nothing but pure disdain for the commoners and the poors and do not care that they are playing roulette, since all chambers are loaded and the gun is not pointing at them.
    • This guy has it. It saddens me to see people still finger-pointing at the 'lefties' or the 'right-wingers' or the 'tea-baggers' or the republicans or democrats or any political group you want to name: the rich rule them all because all desire power and from money comes power.

      The fact of the matter is that the USA is if not outright run then strongly manipulated by those with the money to buy power.
    • by cyberfringe (641163) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:28PM (#45054767) Journal
      I feel the same way and I'm perilously close to a furlough situation myself. We are rapidly getting to a point where the actions of the RWNJ's and their oligarch sponsors will be tantamount to sedition. Some argue we've already passed that threshold. Many GOP members of Congress have vowed to "dismantle" the Federal government. They are the new Confederacy, and the actions they are taking with this GOP shutdown are entirely consistent with their words and previous deeds — in fact, they have no incentive to stop because it is what they have promised to do. They are gleeful to see the government fail, and don't care if that means our Democracy fails too. They certainly don't believe in majority rule, and that is a bedrock principle of democracy. I don't know how to stop them, or what legal methods are available to the President or other elected officials. I fear the worst. Good luck to you. I'll see you at the barricades.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:20PM (#45054221)

    Those of us who are funded at least partly by NSF grants are potentially in trouble. For people who have money in their account from an active grant that will last a few months - all the better. For those whose paycheck depends on the next installment from a grant, tough luck. The worst affected will be folks who had payments and grant reviews in progress.

    More info @ http://www.nsf.gov./ [www.nsf.gov] The most relevant portions:

    Payments: No payments will be made during the shutdown.
    Issuance of New Grants and Cooperative Agreements: No new grants or cooperative agreements will be awarded.

    • by cyberfringe (641163) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:42PM (#45054877) Journal
      The are many government agencies that fund basic and applied research. NSF is the flagship, but the others are no small potatoes either. I am precisely in the situation you describe, along with many colleagues. Even if they resolve everything tomorrow and play nicely together from now on, the impact on on-going research is huge. People don't realize the importance of federal support for scientific research.
    • by guruevi (827432) <evi@NOSpam.smokingcube.be> on Monday October 07, 2013 @12:13AM (#45055821) Homepage

      I'm in that category. Even though the existing grants are paid out and I will (for now) get my salary, I can't spend certain funds even though I "have" them, new research is going to be seriously hampered and this month may push back important research as much as a year (as well as continuing costs for repairs and data storage etc) if the new funding models they agree upon won't cut anything (usually in these crises the science gets defunded while the defense gets funded). Future data storage costs are going to be covered by emergency funding but if I didn't have it, there would be serious risk of significant data loss.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:55PM (#45054483) Homepage Journal

    It makes me drink more and play more GTA V.

    My wife wants to go all Ted Cruz on me and filibuster about how "grown men" shouldn't be playing "video games", but I just whipped out my gavel and told her that all I need for cloture is 50 plus 1 and I got the tie-breaker hanging right here.

    I think I might be in trouble now. I heard my car alarm going off a few minutes ago, and I'm afraid to go look.

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:55PM (#45054487)
    What I find fascinating is this: In most other democracies, if the government can't pass a budget, then the legislature is dissolved and an election is called. New people are elected and they try again. Seems crazy to me that there's no framework of this in the USA - If the government is at loggerheads it's time to let the people decide via an election.
  • by cyberfringe (641163) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:16PM (#45054669) Journal
    My colleagues and I work at a non-profit research institute affiliated with the State of Florida university system. We just do research. No students, no classes. It's all soft money and the vast majority of our funding, maybe 90%, comes as contracts and grants from Federal agencies. There are two huge problems that are hurting us right now. First, if the government cannot make the incremental payments to us on existing grants or contracts, then we don't get paid. That is happening right now. Not only are we not hiring, people are taking salary cuts or going to half time or worse. The payments from the government come at different times throughout the year and are different depending on the grant and the agency, so it is not a issue of the lights suddenly getting turned off. But the impact, however incremental, is very real and it is NOW. I have enough cash on hand from my largest existing grant to keep myself and my group going through December maybe. That brings up the second problem, which is the whole proposal process. Continuity in our research projects requires that we are always in "proposal mode." Grants and contracts are for limited amounts for limited duration. It can take a long time and a lot of effort to get funded since the level of competition is very high. (Competition is ok - I welcome being pushed to do my best.) Right now I have proposals and white papers and discussions with program managers that are all in limbo - and the clock is ticking. Even if they are approved, it will take many months, maybe half a year, to receive the first increment of funding. What's more, the tendency of program managers when they are uncertain about the funds available to their program is to be VERY conservative about making new commitments, regardless of proposal quality. They are also really p.o. 'ed about being furloughed and this makes them surly. In such circumstances, it is difficult to talk about research continuity.
  • by tizan (925212) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:24PM (#45054747)

    Fiscal conservtives are trying to save money supposedly ...close the guvmint damn it because the deficit is too large...and yet they voted yesterday ..
    all of them ...the centrist to the righties...(there are no elected lefties in the US except for may be the Vermont Senator)
    to pay and make us stay home...
    Yup great fiscal conservatism. ...its like trying to drown a carp !

    The problem is not government it is idiots running the government.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @11:57PM (#45055735)

    This ruse is only working because people aren't aware of the subtleties of how governments are financed; particularly OURS. We're a country where just calling Obamacare the ACA increases favorability by 10% or more. And, pointing out what it actually does increases it by more than that.

    Look at some of the uninformed, superficial arguments being regurgitated here "but Republicans presented 4 proposals and Obama refuses to negotiate!"

  • by call -151 (230520) * on Monday October 07, 2013 @05:43AM (#45056843) Homepage

    As a researcher in mathematics, I am fortunate to have a great position and supportive research environment. I still get a paycheck and my day-to-day life continues more-or-less the same, but there are a number of thoughtless consequences indirectly for me, mainly due to the National Science Foundation being currently unfunded. My NSF grant money was delivered some time ago to my grants office and I can spend money as usual for my postdocs and students, so it isn't affecting me there directly. Instead, we have the following consequences:

    1. The NSF webpages are down. That means no reports on existing grants can be filed, not a big deal. But it also means that no new grant submissions can be filed. There are many deadlines in the fall and this is usually a very busy time for grant submissions. I expect that deadlines will be shifted, but that is a huge hassle as in my fields, generally there are once-a-year deadlines and there is a big buildup and plan to time things around the deadlines. Deadlines are carefully distributed throughout the year to avoid congestion with grants offices and to avoid proposing researchers getting overwhelmed. That is all out the window with no idea about how things will be resolved.
    2. No NSF review panels are meeting. In my fields, being asked to do a panel is both an honor and a serious burden. It is a lot of work to read proposals, often in related areas not exactly in areas of primary expertise. Twelve people are asked (per panel) to consider dozens of proposals, each hundreds of pages long (total, most of the important stuff is in about 50 pages.) These are essentially volunteers, top-level researchers from around the world who feel it is important to choose wisely which researchers are funded. Panels are scheduled to meet at the NSF with travel arrangements made by them. Generally it is a very intensive time with tight timelines. All of that is on hold. No new panels are being scheduled, existing panels are in limbo despite people having already read proposals and begun to evaluate them, and panels that already met can't have any further progress on funding decisions. Scheduling panels is a pain and there will be massive congestion and chaos once things get going again, assuming there is again a budget.

    To my mind, these are a big disruption. For people in the lab sciences whose funding is disrupted, projects that have been ongoing or building up can be seriously affected. For people whose funding record will have a big role in their hiring, tenure, and promotion situation, this is a huge stress-inducing situation.

    Blegh. This is a completely unnecessary disruption to thousands of scientists and researchers. Science research funding in the US has always been a pain, even when things go smoothly. Excellent researchers have left for Europe over the years due to frustrations with the NSF system, and things like this will exacerbate that problem.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant system is even larger scale and is also totally on hold, with consequent disruptions. And with the life sciences, uncertainty in projects can be more problematic as it is often harder to put things on hold. I feel sorry for people whose funding needs to be renewed, is under consideration, or needs adjustment now as this is a huge hassle.

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