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Reaching shutdown shutdown

Submitted by on Thursday, 7 April 2011 One Comment

After a few hours this morning of watching various channels for word on the budget the way he usually watches for news from Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, Dad had had enough. “Whatever happens will happen,” he shrugged.

I used to feel the same during hurricane season in Fayetteville, N.C. I’d watch The Weather Channel for a while when a storm popped up in the Caribbean, but then I’d get tired of waiting and decide not to worry about it until the storm was ready to march up Cape Fear.

In meteorological terms, I believe Hurricane Shutdown is about to make landfall at Wilmington.

Less than 36 hours before government operations would (sort of) cease, no one in Washington was optimistic that a shutdown would be averted. The Republican-controlled House did pass a bill Thursday morning, but it was one the president would veto even if it made it through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The bill’s part of the on-going blame game. While the House Republican leader was negotiating with Senate Democrat and the president, the GOP rank-and-file was passing legislation that included cuts the Democrats had not agreed to and provisions covering abortion and environmental regulations that should be dealt with as stand-alone bills.

“There’s no policy reason for the Senate to oppose this bill and keep the government running.” House Speaker John Boehner said. Except he’s being more than a little sanctimonious here. He’s well aware of all the policy reasons.

Not that there’s isn’t plenty of sanctimony already going around, ranging from those on forums who want to lecture military spouses about financial planning to a congressman who says he’ll take a pay cut if everyone else will, all the while decrying his own debt. He must have missed the Tea Party’s “personality responsibility” seminars, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned that he has six kids and one paycheck. It seems to me that both of those fall under the category of “personal choice.”

All of which re-enforces my personal choice to just stop thinking about this until we wake up Saturday and see what’s still open.

We know that soldiers would have to report to duty as normal even though they wouldn’t be paid until after an agreements is reached. For our family, the slap-in-the-fact factor is worse than the financial harm.

We know that day cares and “essential” medical services would open as well, but that makes me wonder what “essential” is. Big Guy’s allergy shots? Possibly not if your definition of “essential” is immediate life and death. I can only imagine the post-shutdown impact, though, of canceling nonessential appointments on a clinic that often can’t meet needs under normal circumstances.

We don’t know about the commissary or gas stations, though with the nearest alternative 35 miles away that could well fall under the category of “essential” here. I can only imagine the financial impact to the Defense Commissary Agency, too, if produce were left to rot and milk left to spoil at bases and posts across the country.

We don’t know if a scheduled children’s sports festival would go on as planned Saturday. Same with a birthday party at the bowling alley on post. Civilians would staff both the festival and the bowling alley.

And thus far, there’s really been no way to find out other than the rumor mill. There’s been not a word in the post newspaper, Web site or social media.

All those details are, of course, minor compared to the stress some families will face due to the possibility of receiving only half a paycheck if a shutdown lasts past the next pay date, April 15. Or receiving no paycheck if it goes on even longer. I’d no longer bet against that possibility. The last shutdown, in 1995-96, lasted a total of almost a month.

We’re better situated than most, because we’re coming off a deployment during which we decided to not spend any of the deployment money. It allowed us to pad our savings and also ensured that we didn’t get used to a new income level that eventually was going to be slashed. The fact that we’re dual-income helps, too.

But I think about others who aren’t as fortunate. There’s a kid at Big Guy’s bus stop who regularly eats candy or nothing for breakfast near the end of the pay cycle. There’s a family that consists of a Defense civilian worker and a teacher who’s already had furlough days with more to come this month.

You can smugly lecture them about financial planning, or you can realize that they’re caught up in events over which they had no control. Events that until today few thought would become reality.

For that matter, they still might not. I’ll let you know when we wake up Saturday. In the meantime, I’m going to make sure on Friday that the car is gassed up, just in case I need to make a 70-mile round trip for milk.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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