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 May 29, 2015 17:19 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy went into reverse in the first three months of this year as a severe winter and a widening trade deficit took a harsher toll than initially estimated.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy as measured by the gross domestic product contracted at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the January-March period.

The revised figure, even weaker than the government's initial estimate of a 0.2 percent growth rate, reflects a bigger trade gap and slower consumer spending.

It marked the first decline since a 2.1 percent contraction in the first three months of 2014, a slump that was also blamed on winter weather.

Economists expect a rebound in the current quarter to growth of around 2 percent and expect the economy to strengthen later this year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A weak U.S. economy pulled down consumer sentiment in May.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment fell to 90.7 from 95.9 in April. The May reading was the lowest since November.

Consumers of all ages and income levels were gloomier this month. And they were less confident both about current economic conditions and the future.

Still, Richard Curtin, chief economist of the surveys, noted that the index has averaged 94.6 the first five months of 2015, highest since 2004.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy fell at a 0.7 percent annual pace the first three months of the year, hurt by severe winter weather and a widening trade deficit.

UNITED STATES-CUBA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has taken Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Secretary of State John Kerry has signed an order removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.

Kerry acted 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so. Lawmakers had that much time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.

The step comes as officials from the countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries. Friday's removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.

GERMANY-G7-FINANCE

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) -- Finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies heard a sharp call from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to find agreement on more financial help for Greece.

Lew said that a further delay in Europe's six-month old talks with Greece was "courting an accident" -- such as a Greek default or messy exit from the euro, which could have unpredictable effects on the global and European economies.

Lew said Friday at the end of meetings in Dresden, Germany: "Too much time has been spent unproductively." The ministers at the meeting officially discussed more long-term projects such as making sure multinational companies pay all their taxes, but Greece overshadowed the talks.

Lew said "the challenge is to treat this week as a week in which there has to be progress."

BRITAIN-EU

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sounded a conciliatory note on Britain's efforts to renegotiate its relationship with the European Union, saying "when there is a desire there should be a way."

British Prime Minister David Cameron is making a whirlwind tour around Europe to press his case for concessions on the terms of Britain's membership in the EU. He met with Merkel in Berlin on Friday after a morning meeting with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz.

Merkel said after the talks that it would be in Germany's interest to see some changes and that her country would negotiate in a "supportive and constructive way."

Germany has a "clear cut hope" that Britain will remain a member of the EU, Merkel added.

ALZHEIMER'S DRUG-SWITCH

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that drug manufacturer Actavis PLC's attempted switch of patented Alzheimer's medication violates U.S. antitrust law.

The decision released this week explains last week's ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that requires the Dublin-based company to keep distributing Namenda until 30 days after its patent expires on July 11.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (SHNEYE'-dur-muhn) sought that court order. He alleged that antitrust and state law violations by Actavis pushed patients to its new patented drug Namenda XR to avoid losses from cheaper generics.

The court says the "hard switch" by Actavis "crosses the line from persuasion to coercion."

Actavis says its new drug, taken once daily instead of twice, is better and demand is growing. The company declined to comment further about the court's ruling.

VOLKSWAGEN-UNION

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The head of a rival group to the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee says his group doesn't share close links to another outfit that worked against a union election at the factory last year.

The American Council of Employees was formed after the UAW narrowly lost that vote. A group called Southern Momentum organized opposition to unionization at the Chattanooga plant.

The newer group, ACE, now has an attorney who served as a leader of Southern Momentum. But ACE's president, Sean Moss, says it's wrong to assume there's wide overlap between ACE and Southern Momentum.

Moss says that many of the workers who supported Southern Momentum opposed any sort of organized labor, while ACE backs Volkswagen's desire to create a German-style works council at the plant.

BREWERY CANS WATER

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- An Anheuser Busch plant in northwest Georgia has started canning water instead of beer to help flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma.

Multiple media outlets report the Cartersville plant halted its beer production to produce 50,000 cans of water to distribute to the flooded areas by this weekend.

Cartersville brewery manager Rob Haas told NBC News the brewery has participated in similar initiatives in the past, including during the Northeast's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

The brewery even has a special white can that it uses for the water.

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