Beyond the Cusp

October 9, 2013

Do These Furloughs Reveal Obama’s True Foreign Policy Agenda

We have all witnessed how many of the furloughs and shutdown closures have been used more as a war on the public in order to make the shutdown actually an inconvenience but otherwise these actions have appeared petty and almost juvenile. When you seek to assign blame for whatever consequence of the government shutdown has just collided with your plans affecting your life there is an easy rule of thumb in determining where to place that blame. Simply determine which department of the government is responsible for providing the services or servicing the area which you have found is closed. If the department is among those which fall under the President’s Cabinet, then the Administration most likely chose to close off that service or area. The prime example is the Park Service which is completely under the auspices of the President. So, every National Park or monument which has had its access restricted or terminated was a choice made by someone within the Administration and not by the Congress. Truthfully, most of the areas which fall under the auspices of the Congress are extremely unlikely to conflict with the average person’s life surprisingly enough. The Congress has furloughed a fair number of workers which is why some Representatives and Senators are likely lost in the vast halls of the Capital Building and associated office buildings because the assistants who pushed the buttons on the elevators for them and who actually had learned where the many meeting rooms and other necessities, including the correct floor for each and every of the 535 members of Congress’s offices have been furloughed. Don’t be too harsh on our esteemed Congressional representatives as they likely have far weightier problems on their minds than to waste their immeasurable mental capabilities memorizing room locations or what floor their offices are located. The vast majority of workers furloughed which fall under the control of Congress would largely be their own staffs both in Washington and back in their home district or state. The rest would be the legions of support personnel within the office complex and Capital Building including interns, pages, message carriers and the like. Thus, the majority of furloughed personnel which are likely, however slight the possibility, to affect anything the average citizen does on their regular schedule of activities has most likely been furloughed by the Administrative Branch of our government and have been selected under some arbitrary set of rules which emanated from the White House through the separate department heads and Cabinet appointees.


All of that be as it may, there has been one set of furloughed personnel which were somehow, through a form of logic which entirely escapes reason, classified as unessential personnel. Perhaps I have my priorities all jumbled-up but I would have placed the work of this particular office extremely high on my list of essential personnel as this office is responsible for some vital policy enforcements. I am referring to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control which was ordered to furlough all but 11 of its 175 full-time employees. Presidential spokesperson James Carney was quoted pointing to this “meaning that the office is unable to sustain its core functions.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control’s work includes issuing new sanctions designations against “those enabling the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as terrorist organizations, WMD proliferators, narcotics cartels and transnational organized crime groups” which has now been impeded. This office is also tasked with enforcement, investigations of sanctions violations and offers penalties, issuing licenses for humanitarian activities, and issuing new sanctions prohibitions. Mr. Carney refused to comment as to whether or not the furloughed personnel would result in any lessening in the enforcement of the sanctions against either Syria or Iran. Wendy Sherman, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported, “Our ability to do that, to enforce sanctions, to stop sanction evaders, is being hampered significantly by the shutdown.” She subsequently added, “Let me assure you that we will continue to vigorously enforce the sanctions that are in place as we explore a negotiated resolution, and will be especially focused on sanctions evasion and efforts by the Iranians to relieve the pressure.”


Administration spokespeople continue to claim that every furloughed Federal Employee was the direct result of Republican actions and that the Administration has absolutely no discretion or alternatives to the various furloughs and respective shutdowns. They claim that they have carefully applied the furloughs with the effort to make the shutdown have the least disruptive consequence to the operation of the government as a whole. But as the numbers of government employees who were necessarily furloughed there were some unavoidable compromises which will affect the operations of government departments and sectors. Somehow looking at their choice to do such direct and extreme harm to the enforcement of international sanction I cannot believe that in cutting a whole 15% of the government workforce that all but 11 of the 175 full-time employees in the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department was unavoidable and not a malicious attempt to lessen sanctions enforcement on Syria and Iran which the President has been hesitant to apply constantly standing to block or postpone Congressional and even European demands for tougher sanctions. This particular choice was a malicious and deliberate crippling of essential operations for which President Obama must be held accountable for as this had to come from the very top with his blessings. There is no way anybody can convince us that this was done without the President’s full knowledge and endorsement. This is another instance where I reread the Constitutional definition of treason and wonder when the trials will begin.


Beyond the Cusp


October 3, 2013

Some Truths About the Government Shutdown

The main truth about the Federal Government shutdown is that what the holier than thou politicians claim is being destroyed, aggravated, or other wording describing deleterious effects are mostly false representations. Perhaps the most pernicious lie is that the furloughed government workers will not be paid. Where they are not currently receiving their paychecks, once the budgetary crisis is over the Congress will quietly pass and the President will sign without the usual fanfare of a press presence a bill which will pay the furloughed government employees all of their missed back pay to cover the entirety of the shutdown. Are some of these employees facing difficulties because of the shutdown? Yes, there are likely some who may be having some problems needing to use credit cards to buy groceries or should the shutdown last into the next month there will be those who may need to make arrangements to pay mortgages or rents late, which entails making a phone call as most lenders and landlords will work with these few government workers and wait until they receive the inevitable pay for the days not worked. Another lie is that the vast majority of Federal Government employees have been furloughed. The truth is well over half, some have figured it to be as many as three-fourths of Federal Government employees are still on the job. One thing you can be assured of is that any furloughed government employee who normally would have had direct contact with the public will have the services they provide all of a sudden becoming front page news to emphasize the horrible repercussions of the budget battle.


Then there are the falsehoods over who is to blame for the shutdown. It is a normal response for people to want to find somebody to blame for every perceived evil or even simple difficulty. The Federal Government shutdown is no exception and the media will gladly point you to those whose lack of flexibility forced the shutdown and those responsible according to media are the Republicans. There is some truth to this claim as the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have allowed for the continued operation of the government provided that the Presidents healthcare program was not funded. The Democrat controlled Senate also passed the Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating but struck the wording which would have prevented funding Obama Care, or the Affordable Care Act if you prefer. The President also promised that even should the Senate agree or find a compromise with the House of Representatives to continue the funding with some delay or reduction in funding for the healthcare act then he would veto it until he received a budget bill which fully financed Obama Care. It is obvious that the Republicans in the House of Representatives are being inflexible in their demand to defund the Affordable Care Act but the President and Democrat controlled Senate are equally adamant to totally fund the Affordable Care Act. There is a secondary story behind the shutdown which revolves around funding for Food Stamps. The media spin is that the Republicans want to dramatically cut funding for Food Stamps. This is the old standard lie which the media has employed for decades if not centuries where since the Democrats are proposing an increase in Food Stamp funding by seventy-five-percent and the Republicans merely want to allow the increase to be approximately fifty-percent then obviously the Republican increasing Food Stamp funding by just two-thirds as much as the Democrats wish then obviously that funding increase is a massive cut.


Meanwhile, while the Federal Government is working under only essential personnel we also have the rollout of Obama Care. The “Market Place” web site where one can research and maybe even purchase health coverage is supposedly running and those employees required to run Obama Care are on the job as essential workers. Where some of them will be toiling away trying to make the web presence for the Affordable Care Act actually function and serve the public, the rest of the support employees may be finding something to do difficult as it appears that most of the government functions for this service are not quite ready for prime time. Other considered essential employees are those who bring us PBS radio and television. You have no idea what a load off my mind that little fact has relieved as how could we ever make it through the day without PBS. There will be some severe ramifications of the shutdown. The members of Congress will no longer have elevator assistance as the employees who had the position to press the buttons on the elevators for the Congressional employees have been furloughed. The White House staff will be operating with what has been deemed to be a skeleton level of staffing but we have been assured that there will continue to be full levels of staffing of the Secret Service guarding the President and all others who normally are kept safe by the Secret Service.


The real problem which could result from a prolonged Federal Government shutdown would be the public coming to the realization that the vast majority of nonessential services really are exactly that, nonessential. The shutdown may lead the people to discover that former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi might have been slightly exaggerating when she complained last week that there was not one single dollar which could be cut as government had already been cut to the bone. Dear, dear Nancy, if the government was cut so bare how is it there were nonessential personnel to furlough because of the shutdown. There is a suggestion which would help the Federal Government to reduce the federal budget, what many might call drastically and other would claim it merely a good start, which would be to strictly enforce the limitations placed on the Federal Government and the functions it is permitted to perform by the Constitution. Particular attention should be placed on the application of the Tenth Amendment. By enforcing the Constitution and its limitations on the purview of the Federal Government, the states would be empowered to perform numerous functions without having to meet or be constrained by Federal Government oversight and regulations. This would allow each of the fifty states (fifty-seven if you agree with President Obama) to independently decide on how to address and tailor each of these programs such as education, welfare, unemployment and almost uncountable other programs. In time the methods utilized by the more successful states would be proven as advantageous and thus some form of them would spread to the other states. There would also be different variations in what programs would be considered vital and how the different programs would be funded allowing for the people to reside in whatever state best matched their personal politics. This relegating much of the day-to-day operations of governance to the individual states allows for a form of governmental evolution as each state becomes its own experiment in how to address governance which would eventually lead to greater efficiency in governance, something much needed as the Federal Government has mutated into a leviathan which feeds upon the people while telling them it is all for their own good. The time has come to bring government back to the local arena such that it is more accessible to the people it is supposed to serve, not to lord over as the dictator of all you do. If once the states receive these additional responsibilities it would be a good idea for them to pass as much as feasible down further to the county and city governments where the people have a real and potent voice should they choose to use it. It is time to return government to where it is for the people, by the people, and, most important, of the people.


Beyond the Cusp


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