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Looking at the government shutdown

Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Looking at the government shutdown story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The government shutdown is wrapping up its third day, and there is still no whisper of a way out of the situation.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's amazing that our Congress, which is failing to get the job done, keeps getting paid.

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Let me see if I can get this straight.

The people we elect to make important decisions on our behalf have allowed the government to shut down because its locked up on health care for the country, while they get their own special brand of healthcare, paid for by you and me.

The people we elect have forced the layoff of nearly a million so-called non-essential people—sorry about that—while their own paychecks are guaranteed.

No change in lifestyle for them. If they were living in the real world their job performance would be grounds for dismissal. All of them.

A Republican senator smugly says on FOX News that the shutdown will make people realize they can live with less government than they thought they needed. Tell that to the actuaries who say the shutdown is costing government at least $300 million a day. Tell that to the 9-million low-income women with infants and children with WIC cards who see signs on grocery store doors that they are no longer welcome during the shutdown. So what if they can't feed their families?

And the shutdown is caused by 80 right-wing Congressmen. They are considered members of the tea party, who have somehow hijacked the moderates of the Republican Party into challenging the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," at any cost.

Obamacare is not just an idea. It's a law—a law that was passed by Congress three years ago. It survived a challenge last year in the Supreme Court of the United States and became effective two days ago.

The concept of a national health care policy has been pursued by every President over the past one hundred years. So its not a new concept. It finally happened.

With Congress so off course, it follows that Speaker John Boehner, the man with the tan from Ohio, has quite simply lost control over his party.

Moderate Republicans who do a lot of grumbling about people like tea party leader Senator Ted Cruz have lost their voice. Or maybe they've given up their voice.

Could it be that they're afraid of the tea party and the NRA and their seemingly endless supplies of money?

Rest assured they all know what happened to those two Republican State Senators from Colorado who had the temerity to vote their consciences and say yes to universal background checks on firearm sales.

They won't even get a chance to face voters again. They're gone. Recalled. Thanks to a $400 thousand campaign financed by the NRA.

Even more troubling, the polls are  pretty clear. The vast majority of Americans didn't want this shutdown in any way.

They wanted their leaders to work things out—to do what we pay them to do.

Congress's approval rating hovers at about ten percent. The shutdown isn't exactly  making them more popular. But they don't seem to care. They come from gerrymandered districts where their reelection is virtually guaranteed.

But unless people start speaking up, and start demanding that:

  • If the country suffers, Congress does too
  • That if the government shuts down, Congress—those 535 elected employees of ours—they don't get paid. Not one penny.
  • That moderates in both parties dig down and show some courage and find a way to talk to one another and do their damn jobs,
  • That contrary to what they grow to believe, they are not royalty. They are hired by the people. They are employees of the people. They are beholden to the people, and a majority of the people have a right to expect far, far better than what they're getting.

If that doesn't happen, our democracy, where for the time being the majority no longer rules, is in peril.

I think I have it right.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 30, 2015 18:13 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014 as a big burst in consumer spending was offset by weakness in other areas.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December period, down from sizzling gains of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Consumers did their part in the fourth quarter, pushing up spending by fastest rate in nearly nine years. But businesses investment, trade and government spending weakened.

For the year, the economy grew at a moderate rate of 2.4 percent. But economists believe 2015 could be a breakout year for growth, with consumer spending boosted by strong employment gains and falling gas prices. Many expect growth above 3 percent this year.

EMPLOYMENT COST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace in six years last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. That's the biggest gain since 2008. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent.

Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace.

The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health.

US-CONSUMER-SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month.

Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years.

The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that strong job growth and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PILOTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have approved a single labor contract. That's a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers, which merged in December 2013.

The multiyear deal gives pilots a 23 percent pay raise retroactive to Dec. 2.

The pilots' union said Friday that the contract was approved 66 percent to 34 percent, with 95 percent of eligible pilots casting a vote.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A jury of six men and six women is continuing deliberations in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated all day Thursday without reaching a verdict. They returned to a federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to keep working.

The jurors must decide whether Toyota's design of the 1996 Camry had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous. If they find there was a defect, they must decide if it directly caused injuries to those hurt or killed when Koua Fong Lee crashed into another car in 2006.

Lee spent 2 1/2 years in prison before being released after reports suggested some Toyota cars had sudden acceleration problems.

GERMANY-BMW-SECURITY FLAW

BERLIN (AP) -- German automaker BMW says it has fixed a security flaw that made 2.2 million of its vehicles vulnerable to break-ins.

The company says the problem affected BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce models equipped with its ConnectedDrive technology, which allows drivers to access certain car functions with a smartphone.

German automobile club ADAC, which discovered the flaw last summer, says hackers could have used a fake cellphone base station to intercept network traffic from the car and lower the windows or open the doors. There are no reports such a break-in ever took place.

BMW spokeswoman Silke Brigl said Friday that hackers wouldn't have been able to start or stop the engine.

Brigl said the problem has been fixed with an automatic update and customers don't need to take any action.

POM JUICE-RULING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court says many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The conclusion was reached by the Federal Trade Commission.

The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products.

POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products.

RUSSIA-FINANCES

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says his country's economic crisis is forcing athletes to scale back their training plans for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

Training camps abroad can be crucial in acclimatizing athletes for Rio de Janeiro's tropical conditions, but they are rapidly becoming unaffordable after the ruble lost almost half of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months.

Nagornykh tells Russian agency R-Sport that, with the ruble's value low and the Sports Ministry's budget facing cuts, athletes should stay in Russia rather than train abroad "in order to spend less of the currency reserves."

Officials will select priority sports and athletes for scarce funding, Nagornykh said.

The measures affect athletes for the Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics, he added.

OHIO STATE-ROYALTIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' national championship victory.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes.

Retailers say the team's special story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries.

Licensing officials also attribute increased sales to the fact Ohio State hadn't won a championship since 2002.

More than half of each dollar that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program also receive portions of the revenue.

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