Updates at the end of the post
As some of you may (or not) have noticed, I’ve been offline almost all week.
There was a reason for this.
It began with the worst migraine I’ve had in years.
I’ve gotten migraines most of my life, but these days they are usually manageable and rarely incapacitating. Every once in a while, I get one that for some unexplained reason kicks over into a headache that is much more severe. I spent most of Sunday night, in between bouts of Olympic caliber vomiting, sitting on the floor of my kitchen with my head between my knees wishing that I’d just die and get it over with. Honestly, I thought my eyes were going to explode out of my head like the cork from an over-pressurized champagne bottle. Most of the pain was gone by Monday evening, but I was nauseated and my hands shook until Wednesday.
It’s four days after the peak today, and the inside of my head still feels like the filthy urine crusted linoleum floor of a skid row dive bar restroom.
In retrospect, I should have realized that evil headache was a harbinger of things to come.
The sickening agony in my skull set the perfect tone for the rest of this week as we careen madly towards a shutdown of the US Government like those idiots from Jackass, The Movie plummeting at breakneck speed downhill pell-mell towards disaster in a giant shopping cart whooping and hollering and gibbering like crazed baboons unable to foresee the consequences of their stupidity. And I dare you to find a better analogy for the current US Congress than the cast of Jackass, The Movie – honestly, can’t you just see John Boehner shooting-bottle rockets out of his ass while Harry Reid chokes down snow-cones saturated in his own piss? No? Maybe it’s just me. There are four hundred million Americans – and these five hundred and thirty-five jackasses are the best we can do.
Tonight, unless a compromise is reached in the next few hours, the Government of the United States will shut down.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that our republic has failed. It means that we are too damned petty and petulant to avoid cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
What does it mean to you and I personally?
At first, on Monday, the effects will be small, noticeable primarily in the places where the Federal government interacts directly with the public.
Note that the key word in that previous sentence is “noticeable.”
Behind the scenes, things start to go pear shaped pretty fast.
Today, a rather vocal minority (emphasis on tiny minority) are dancing gleefully in the streets, determined to teabag the rest of us while they rub their beer bellies together and brandish their misspelled signs, screaming, “Shut it down! Shut it down!” These morons are an abject example of why our Founding Fathers designed a republic instead of a nation ruled by an enraged mob made up of ignorant selfish assholes too damned stupid not to sit around watching grown men shoot bottle rockets out of their asses while drinking their own piss.
See, it’s the things that aren’t immediately noticeable, the bitter results of the law of unintended consequences, that these simpleton jackasses are missing.
Let me give you an example:
If the government shuts down, starting Monday, you won’t be able to apply for a passport.
Oh, you can still fill out the paperwork at your local post office, but it won’t go anywhere until the government starts back up.
No big deal, right?
I mean, most of the America, Fuck Ya! xenophobes who think a government shut-down is a good thing aren’t exactly planning on travelling outside of the United States anyway. They’ve never left America, and they never intend to, they know everything they need to know about the world from watching FoxNews and the Military Channel. So, a bunch of dope smoking liberals can’t get passports to visit their socialist French butt-buddies? So What. Big deal, boohoo cry me a river. Right?
There’s a bit more to it than that. The federal government processes between twenty and thirty thousand passport applications per day. Let me repeat that for the tea drinkers, that’s twenty to thirty thousand passport applications per day. As you might imagine, the folks who do this are a bit busy and can barely keep up with the demand – which is why it takes a couple of months to get your passport after you’ve applied for it. Try to imagine what the backlog will look like after a week of government shutdown, two weeks, a month.
So, here’s the first unintended consequence of shutting down the government: Overtime. Overtime and lots of it – because you, the taxpayer, are going to have to pay to clear that backlog, and pay you will, sooner or later, double and triple time. And it doesn’t end there, because, see, those passports are vetted by a number of agencies, from state records offices to the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security. You’re going to be paying for a lot of overtime.
But that won’t be the only way you pay.
See, only a relatively minor percentage of those passports are for vacation travel. The majority of those applications are for business travel. The inability to get passports will have a direct impact on American business at all levels, from hiring to investment to sales to legal actions to speculation to purchasing and on and on. It will directly affect all business, big and small, from tiny specialty coffee buyers to the huge multinational defense contractors, from the recovering American car industry to Wall Street. And it works the other way too, see the same government agency that processes your passport application also processes foreign visa applications – so those folks coming here from other countries to invest in our business, to buy our products, to pay tuition in our schools, to shop in our stores, to spend their money in our country – well, they’ll just have to wait too, and maybe they’ll just go somewhere else instead. And that has yet more impact on our badly battered economy.
But wait, as they say, it gets better.
Those missionaries your church was planning on sending down to the Caribbean to show the Haitians how to make potable water and shelters from Jesus? They’ll have to wait. In a government shutdown, even Jesus gets screwed.
Those disaster relief teams that were supposed to bring aid and supplies to Japan? Looks like the Japanese will just have to suck it up. Maybe the Russians will help them. Maybe the Russians will help us, since the folks who monitor those radiations leaks will also be home sitting on their hands (don’t worry about it, you’ll still be able to log onto a government website and get hourly updates on the spread of radiation and… what? Oh, heh, heh, sorry looks like nobody will be updating the webpages either. Well, ok, go ahead and start panicking. Here, breath into this paper bag).
How about those military families that are planning on joining their spouses overseas? Too bad for them if they don’t already have passports and entry visas, looks like they’ll have to wait too. But hey, it’s not like they’re actually getting paid either, so really thanks for the double dry hump. Don’t worry about it. Folks in the military and their families are used to getting ass raped by patriotic Americans, we wouldn’t expect anything else. Maybe you can stick another yellow ribbon magnet made in China on the back of your SUV to make up for it, that would be really helpful.
That’s is just the tip of the iceberg.
Passports, like polar bears, are an indicator species, warning flags of impending catastrophe.
Most Americans have no idea of where passports even come from and couldn’t name the agency responsible for issuing them if you exercised you 2nd Amendment rights and jammed a gun in their ear. You fill out a form at the post office, turnover your picture, pay your money, and a couple of months later your passport shows up in the mail. Viola! That process, performed by an army of unlamented government employees somewhere in the bowels of the State Department is one of millions of functions that will cease tonight when the clock strikes the witching hour in Washington D.C.
Those functions affect your life in countless ways. Here’s a few examples:
- Delays in the federal permitting process will impact construction of new interstate pipelines and transmission lines that directly affect long term energy prices, or worse might delay construction of new projects to replace ones like that 40 year old natural gas pipeline which failed so spectacularly in California a couple of months ago. Think about that. But, heck, don’t lose any sleep over it, those other 40 year old high pressure gas lines, like that one running through your neighborhood, those are probably OK. Probably. Ditto bridge inspections, don’t worry about those either.
- Oh, and ditto those permits and environmental reviews you need for that off shore drilling you’re so enthusiastic about. By the way, if those permits don’t get approved during the right time of year, i.e. now, well then there won’t be enough time to start the project before winter comes in the north and hurricane season in the south. Maybe next year.
- Civilian Intelligence specialists will be furloughed, unless they are directly involved in the war efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya. What does that mean? Well, it means that those Intel folks involved in political and economic intelligence collection will be doing odd jobs around the house on Monday – instead of working on gathering, processing, and disseminating the vital information our nation needs to maintain a competitive edge in the global economy. But, hey, maybe the rest of the world, including our buddies in China and India, won’t take advantage of the situation, maybe they will just stop and wait for us to get our heads out of our asses.
- Here’s one I particularly like: nearly all Indian reservations in the United States fall under the cognizance of the US Federal Government. Schools there are federal schools. Those will shut down. Trash pickup is a federal function, if the contract isn’t already paid nobody is going to pick up the garbage. Drug and substance abuse programs will cease. Food and assistance will cease. Housing construction will cease. In some cases, law enforcement may stop. These people get fucked by Congress even more than those in the military. But hey, at least they can take comfort in knowing the Tea Party stood pat on principle.
- You better hope you don’t need help filing your federal income tax this year. There won’t be anybody answering the phone at the IRS. But, you know, you still need to file on time, though I wouldn’t recommend you do it via paper. Not if you’re in a hurry anyway.
- Remember those military families? The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen will still be able to get medical care at their local bases, but their families won’t - unless it’s an emergency. Oh, you didn’t know that most of the medical services provided to the military at home are done by civilians these days? Well, yeah, it seems that a lot of military medical personnel are off to war, but that’s just a detail, I’m sure they’ll understand. Boy, the hits just keep on coming with that one, don’t they? No pay, no passports, no support, and no medical care for their kids, but don’t worry folks, the war will go on as scheduled. Hoorah!
- The good news is that Social Security is still funded and the checks will still go out, so no need for the Greatest Generation to cancel cable and miss Glenn Beck or have to pass on that Tea Party rally tonight. So, that’s good. I’ll check back in two weeks when Medicare turns off, see how things are going then.
- Three hundred and ninety-four National Parks, National Historical Sites, and other facilities run by the Park Service will shut down. That’s not just vacation spots, folks, that’s your kids education. That’s those field trips to the Smithsonian and the Grand Canyon and the Lincoln Memorial. Be sure to thank the Tea Party for that too, won’t you?
- The EPA? Nobody cares if they shut down, right? Except, funny thing, they’re the folks who clean up toxic spills. Better hope there isn’t one in your neighborhood because during a shutdown they have to stop the clean up. And for every day that goes by, a little more of that crap leaches just a little further into your soil, a little closer to the water table that your kids drink from.
- The Air Traffic Controllers will still show up for work – but not the people who run the coffee stands and the sandwich cart and clean the toilets and empty the trash at those big regional FAA control centers. Boy, I hope those controllers aren’t distracted by the overflowing toilets and garbage cans. Naw, I’m sure it’ll be OK, they’d never leave just one guy in the tower at Reagan National while the other guy on duty has to drive over to Concourse D to get a couple of croissants and some coffees from Starbucks. And speaking of things that slam into the ground at five hundred miles per hour, anybody want to guess whether or not the FAA inspectors who make sure Southwest Airlines’ aging fleet of 737’s don’t peel open at 30,000 feet like a tin can full of strawberry surprise will be on the job Monday? You might want to pay particular attention during the pre-flight safety brief next week, just saying, especially that part about oxygen masks and evacuation slides.
I could go on and on, but the important thing here is that we make sure Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform a couple of $90 abortions for welfare mothers, and it’s perfectly moral to stomp and scream and throw a tantrum until the Tea Party gets its way in this matter. How bad the shutdown gets, and how it affects each of us, primarily depends on how long the childish self-absorbed jackasses in Congress decide to hold the rest of us hostage. And make no mistake at all, that’s exactly what this is, a hostage standoff.
They say you get the government you deserve.
I know, I know, I hear ya, nobody deserves this.
Folks, take a look around. When you have a country where the majority steadfastly votes along party lines instead of in their own best interest, when the majority steadfastly refuses to actually educate themselves on things that actually affect their own lives, when they see the world through the lens of TV pundits, when they believe the world is only 6000 years old because a bunch of Bronze Age sheep herders said so and the government blew up the World Trade Center and the President is really an alien reptile in a rubber human suit, this is exactly what you get. And you deserve it.
George Washington hated political parties, he said they served only to turn brother against brother and he was absolutely right.
At least half of this country does only what their political party tells them to do and most have no idea how their own government even works.
Today, I’ve received at least three dozen messages from people who seem to think that federal law and the Constitution can be overridden with a few “Likes” on a Facebook petition. Folks, every single person on the internet can sign your electronic petition – but Senators and Representatives will still get paid, and they will continue getting paid until somebody either repeals or modifies the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Period. You’d do yourself a big favor by spending a bit more time learning how your government works and a little less time forwarding useless chain mail around the internet. Better yet, you’d do yourself an even bigger favor by not voting for selfish grandstanding assholes in the first place.
Speaking of chain mail, please, quit forwarding me those “Click here if you think our military should get paid during a shutdown” letters. Seriously.
I’m not going to sign them, for two reasons:
1) They don’t work. They might make you feel good, but you’re not doing anything. See the bit above regarding Congressional pay. You can be all the outraged you like, but until you change the law when the government shuts down so does military pay. That’s just how it is. You might want to give that some thought, perhaps while you’re on the way to your Tea Party rally where you and your friends will be shouting “Shut it down, shut it down.” Just saying.
and 2) Because if you smoke, you get cancer. That’s right, assholes, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Demanding that we fund military pay while shutting down the rest of the government is just like eating a big box of jelly donuts and then bitching when you get fat. Actions have consequences. If you feel so strongly about this that you will not compromise, you will not budge, and you will force the shutdown of the Federal government because you think you have a God given mandate to hold five hundred million of the rest of us hostage, then you should damned well have to live with the fucking consequences.
Shut it down! Shut it down!
Fine, go ahead, shut it down.
But you, personally, explain to that young military wife why she can’t get a passport to follow her husband to an overseas assignment, you explain why she can’t make the rent this month, you explain why her husband should fight and die for democracy while you, Mr. Honorable Representative, spit right in the face of it because you can’t seem to understand that democracy is about compromise. You explain why we’re six months into this fiscal year, at a point where you should be working on next year’s budget, and you still haven’t done your job. Don’t try to blame the President – you have to get a bill in front of him first, something yet another large bunch of Americans don’t seem to understand - until there is a bill on the president’s desk he’s just a cheerleader.
No, I firmly believe that if the government shuts down, then the military should not get paid.
You want an easy out?
Fuck you. You’re making this bed, you lay in it.
If you feel that God is on your side, that you have a mandate from all the citizens of America and not just those Tea Party assholes you love so much, then you step the fuck up and put your man-meat on the chopping block, see if the voters cut it off.
But, if you really believed that you’re right, well, then you wouldn’t need a get out of jail free card.
Update 1: Folks, I appreciate the advice, I really do, but let’s all assume that I know a little something about migraines and that I’ve seen a doctor or two or three. It’s not a tumor. Really. I’m good.
Update 2: About an hour after I published this post, Congress reached a deal on the budget. Looks like we’ll avoid a shutdown for now. However, I’d caution you that the real budget fight, the one for 2012, begins now. Still, this deal shows that both sides can compromise if they really want to and the Tea Party can kiss all of our asses.