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October 1, 2013

BEAM: Love in the time of government shutdowns

— Few things would make me happier than if this column proved untimely. Hopefully, these dated words will serve more use as kindling for a fire in which to warm your toes on a cool, fall night. [Like they wouldn’t regardless]. Still, with no crystal balls to tell me the future and a looming print deadline, I’m taking a gamble and voicing my concern about the impending government shutdown.

Of course, the term shut down is a little misleading. The U.S. government will still be running come Tuesday, but a portion of it will be suspended due to the lack of authority the feds will have to spend money. It’s kind of like when Scooby Doo and Shaggy visit those old abandoned amusement parks. Most all the rides still work, but only a ghost crew is around to operate them. I doubt if any of those indentured ghouls get paid for their troubles, either.

Chances look doubtful, with 12 hours to go until the Congressional deadline, of any compromise being reached. Both parties are firmly entrenched in their belief that it’s the other’s fault, and that the measures they are advocating justify their divisive rhetoric.

Never mind Syria or Iran. Health care has become the new battlefield in American politics.

So while rich, white men fight about money, or the lack thereof, on Capitol Hill, the rest of us wait to see what happens when government ceases to work effectively.

And that’s why I’m ever-so-slightly freaked out.

You see, on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., once money ceases to come down our country’s pipeline due to a budget bill not being passed, the Beam family loses a paycheck — at least until Congress can get its house in order. Around two million federal employees will be affected by the lack of funding, some of whom will be furloughed. The last time the government closed up shop in 1995 and 1996, workers who were laid off did receive their salaries retroactively. Yet, with a different political atmosphere, few are willing to take a gander if that will happen this time around.

As federal law enforcement, my husband has been deemed essential personnel. In other words, he still needs to show up for work despite the fact that no pay will be given until after Congress resolves the budget crisis. Unlike others, he will receive compensation for his effort; it just will come at a later date.

No one wants to lose a primary source of income, even for a bit. And while our family has enough saved to sustain us for several months of this debacle, it’s still unnerving to use these reserves. Trips to visit aunts and cousins in other states have been canceled in anticipation, while purchasing some larger ticket items has been postponed. Our hatches are being battened down waiting to ride out the small economic tempest ahead.

While we ready ourselves, our elected officials keep on spending which brings us to the most hypocritical thing in all this. Congress, the very entity that will have caused the shutdown by not passing a spending bill, will continue to receive its pay.

How did that happen? Both Congress and the president get their salaries from mandatory funds just like Social Security payments, food stamps and Medicare. No matter what, members will receive their $174,000 yearly income without any interruption regardless of if they work for it or not.

We can’t forget our president. He’ll still be paid his $400,000 salary, too.

Does that make you want to scratch your head? Yep, me as well — especially because we all know how money motivates our elected officials to action. Why, just look at all the work they do for the special interest groups that donate to their campaigns.

For now, it’s just a waiting game. Maybe a miracle will occur and Congress will actually pass a spending bill before the Tuesday night deadline. If not, do me a favor and save me some of your old newspapers, preferably ones with a photo of a Congressman. Without a paycheck, we’ve got to find some way to heat the house and line the kitty potties, don’t ya know.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

 

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