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 October 22, 2014 17:29 GMT

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer prices edged up slightly in September, with the overall increase held back by a third straight monthly decline in gasoline prices. The tiny gain was the latest evidence that inflation remains dormant.

The Labor Department says consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in September after having falling 0.2 percent in August. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy, also rose 0.1 percent after no gain in August.

Over the past 12 months, overall prices are up 1.7 percent and core prices are up a similar 1.7 percent. Both increases are well below the 2 percent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The absence of inflationary pressures has allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows to boost the economy.

SOCIAL SECURITY-COLA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government says millions of older Americans who rely on federal benefits will get a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly payments next year.

It's the third year in a row the increase will be less than 2 percent.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment affects payments for more than 70 million Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees.

The government announced the increase Wednesday, when it released the latest measure of consumer prices. By law, the increase is based on inflation, which is well below historical averages so far this year.

Congress enacted automatic increases for Social Security beneficiaries in 1975. Until recently, the increases were rarely less than 2 percent.

AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government is adding more than 3 million vehicles to a rare warning about faulty air bags that have the potential to kill or injure drivers or passengers in a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday put out a new list of vehicles, increasing the number from 4.7 million to 7.8 million. The agency urged people to get their cars repaired if they're being recalled, especially in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

The air bag inflators made by parts supplier Takata can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are inflated. Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem.

The warning covers many models from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

EBOLA MONITORING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal health officials are significantly expanding the breadth of vigilance for Ebola, saying that all travelers who come into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for symptoms of illness for 21 days.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the program will begin Monday and cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

CDC Director Tom Frieden says state and local health officials will check daily for fever or other Ebola symptoms.

Passengers will get kits to help them track their temperature and will be told to inform health officials daily of their status.

J&J-EBOLA VACCINE

J&J to spend up to $200M on Ebola vaccine program

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson will start safety testing in early January on a vaccine combination that could protect people from a strain of the deadly Ebola virus.

The health care products maker says it has committed up to $200 million to speed up and expand production of a vaccine program being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

J&J is developing the vaccine with the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic. It involves a regimen in which two vaccines are delivered two months apart. The combination provided complete protection in animals against a virus strain similar to the one causing the current outbreak in West Africa that has killed thousands of people.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company says it will also determine whether its vaccine protects against the version causing the outbreak.

MORTGAGE RISK RULES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators are proceeding with new rules that ease guidelines for banks selling mortgage securities and could mean fewer borrowers will need to make hefty down payments.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to adopt the rules, which six federal agencies have been working on since 2011. Three other agencies adopted the rules Tuesday, and the Federal Reserve has scheduled a vote for Wednesday afternoon.

The rules govern the amount of risk banks must take on when they package and sell mortgage securities in a multitrillion-dollar market. In the final rules, the regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20-percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books.

MINI-OVERSTATED GAS MILEAGE

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government has told BMW to reduce the gas mileage estimates on window stickers of four Mini Cooper models.

Testing by the Environmental Protection Agency lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, discovered the overstated mileage.

The vehicles affected are the 2014 Mini Cooper three-door and Mini Cooper three-door S models with manual and automatic transmissions. BMW must cut the highway mileage by one-to-four miles per gallon depending on the model. Estimates for city driving and combined city and highway fuel economy also must be reduced.

The EPA says it audited the Mini gas mileage and came up with lower values than BMW, which makes the cars. It's the fourth time in the past two years that the EPA has found discrepancies in the gas mileage estimates provided by an automaker.

PEW-ONLINE HARASSMENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A new study confirms what many Internet users know all too well: Harassment is a common part of online life.

The report by the Pew Research Center found that nearly three-quarters of American adults who use the Internet have witnessed online harassment. Forty percent have experienced it themselves.

The types of harassment Pew asked about range from name-calling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. Half of those who were harassed said they didn't know the person who had most recently attacked them.

Young adults -- people 18 to 29 -- were the most likely age group to see and undergo online harassment.

The survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 among 3,217 respondents.

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