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 August 29, 2014 17:14 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in July, with a drop in auto purchases accounting for most of the weakness. Income growth also slowed in July.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged down 0.1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in June. It was the first decline in spending since January. Income growth slowed to a 0.2 percent rise in July, the weakest showing in seven months.

The fall in spending came primarily from a decline in auto sales, which took a breather in July after posting big gains in recent months, although spending in other areas was also weak.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, so it needs to recover for the economy to keep its momentum in the second half of the year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in August, driven by greater optimism about jobs, rising incomes, and increasing wealth. The increase largely occurred among higher-income groups.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. Still, it has barely risen in the past year.

Consumers have sent mixed signals in recent months. The Michigan index has fluctuated between 80 and 82.5 since December. A measure of consumer confidence by the Conference Board rose this month to nearly a seven-year high. And yet Americans cut back their spending in July.

Nearly 60 percent of households in the top third of income earners say they are financially better off this month, the Michigan survey found, compared with only 36 percent in the bottom two-thirds.

US-FIAT-CHRYSLER

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. investors should soon be able to buy stock in Chrysler for the first time in seven years.

Italy's Fiat and Chrysler are merging to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Fiat says Friday that an ongoing tally of investors suggests there is not enough opposition to derail the deal.

Earlier this month, Fiat shareholders approved combining the companies. But Italian law gives dissenters the right to cash out. Fiat has said that if investors offered more than 500 million euros ($650 million) in shares, the merger would be off.

Fiat SpA will announce the final tally by Sept. 4. So far the maximum number of shares to be cashed is below the cap.

Shares of Chrysler haven't been publicly traded since 2007 when it was still combined with German automaker Daimler.

REYNOLDS AMERICAN-LORILLARD

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators are putting Reynolds American Inc.'s planned $25 billion takeover of rival cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. under the microscope.

The nation's second-biggest tobacco company said Friday that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for additional information as part of an antitrust review of the deal.

In July, Reynolds announced the deal to combine two of the nation's oldest and biggest tobacco companies, creating a formidable No. 2 to rival Altria Group Inc., owner of Philip Morris USA.

Reynolds markets Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard sells Newport, Maverick and Kent cigarettes.

The companies plan to sell the Kool, Salem, Winston, Maverick and blu eCig brands to Imperial Tobacco Group for $7.1 billion to ease regulatory concerns about competition.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-TAX FORMS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal agency that brought you the glitchy HealthCare.gov website has a massive new project.

If the Health and Human Services department has trouble this time, that could delay tax refunds for many people.

Complicated connections between the new health care law and income taxes will start to surface in 2015.

HHS has to send millions of people who got health insurance tax credits this year a new tax form that's like a W-2 for health care. It's called a 1095-A.

If they're delayed beyond Jan. 31, people who got coverage through the new insurance exchanges may have to wait to file their taxes -- and collect their refunds.

Some tax preparation companies are worried.

The Obama administration says it's on task, but won't provide much detail.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Inflation has fallen to an annual 0.3 percent in August for the 18 countries that use the euro, underlining the shakiness of the continent's economic recovery.

Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, says the figure is down from 0.4 percent in July, as expected by market analysts.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, sent a modestly brighter signal as it rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent.

The eurozone economy showed no growth in the second quarter as fears about the Ukrainian crisis weighed on consumers and investment decisions.

The European Central Bank has warned that inflation expectations are worsening and says it will add more stimulus if needed. Many analysts are predicting the bank will launch large-scale purchases of financial assets to pump more money into the economy.

BRAZIL-ECONOMY

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil's government says the country's gross domestic product contracted 0.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, sending the country's economy into a recession.

The government's IBGE statistics bureau said Friday it was the second consecutive quarterly contraction of the economy.

In the first quarter of the year, GDP was reported as having grown 0.2 percent. But that figure was revised downward to minus 0.2 percent.

The IBGE says the country's GDP stands at 1.27 trillion reals ($567 billion).

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