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

 

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October 8, 2013

The Ugly Side of a Government Shutdown

The Federal Government shutdown has turned ugly and vindictive by design with the Administration going through each and every service, historic sites, museums, web portals and other various forms of public-government interaction with an eye to shutting down anything and everything which would cause the public harm and inconvenience. They then claim that the Republicans own the shutdown and that the President feels the pains and hardships the public are experiencing and President Obama claims that the Republicans will not negotiate with him over the budget. This is the biggest fabrication I have ever heard from any politician even including President Nixon’s claim that he is “not a crook.” Some examples pretty much make obvious where the closings originate. At Andrews Air Force Base the PX is closed but the golf course which the President loves is open. The right lane of highways and byways from which one can snap pictures of Mount Rushmore have been coned off so people are unable to stop. The last straw and most unbelievable act committed by the Administration was forcing people, mostly elderly, to leave their homes which border Lake Meade claiming that since the government has found it impossible to guarantee services preventing possible harm such as flooding from endangering their lives, they must leave immediately. Many of those people had no clue that the government did anything other than monitor the Hoover Dam as far as protecting them and even understanding the extent and scope that the Administration has gone to in order to maximize harm to the people and citizens of the United States; I seriously doubt they have suspended monitoring the Hoover Dam. The almost ridiculous lengths employed to maximize harm has been unprecedented and should be the main critical consequence of the budget battle covered by the mainstream media but instead they simply follow the President’s lead claiming that the Republicans are the sole source of all evils emanating from the shutdown.

 

The future has taken on an ominous tinge due to a small fact that once any politician opens the door to a new venue of consequences or behaviors it becomes just another tool which virtually any politician from either party will add to their tool kit for future use. Future budget battles will now target services designed for the people which will be the first services where personnel will be furloughed in order to deny these services to the public. The fact that there have been some midlevel and operational workers reporting that they have been instructed to make the shutdown as inconveniencing and causing maximum hardships as they are able is the most frightening aspect of this shutdown. These specifically targeted closings of open air monuments where it is costing the government funds in order to barricade these places which under normal operation might entail their being cleaned periodically but otherwise operate at no cost to government is opening a level of vindictiveness that cannot be stressed too strongly. The same goes for the numerous sites such as Mount Vernon where private groups who take absolutely no government funds are being ordered to be shutdown presumably because the Federal Government services and provides upkeep for access roads or parking lots or even because they claim they will no longer be able to provide security support in case of an incident. These actions are simply an abomination revealing a level of contempt for the public by those in government who are behind these closures who, just like those responsible for the stand-down order during the assault in Benghazi, remain unidentified though it can be assumed they are high up in the Administration and their orders very probably come from the highest levels if not the President himself.

 

There is going to be a phase two to the budget battle approaching rapidly and that is raising the debt ceiling. The claims that raising the debt ceiling will not increase the actual level of United States government debt because it is only being increased to cover spending which has already been approved is false. If that argument sounds highly suspicious and disingenuous, then you very likely have a good grasp on budgeting and money handling. The fallacy in that argument is that once the government has made a commitment to provide services or other governmental functions which require funding that there is no way to fund these expenditures in the future other than by raising the debt limit in order to cover the expenditures. This would be the same idea as if you decided to take a vacation this summer and as the time for the vacation approached you did not make any adjustments to your daily expenditures nor decide to postpone some purchases and instead simply applied for a new charge card on which you would pay for everything while on vacation claiming that the new charge card was not going to increase the family’s level of indebtedness as you had decided on the vacation already so the new charge card to cover the expenditures was unavoidable. We can expect that should any members of the Congress suggest that there be spending cuts made to defray some of the future spending rather than simply take on all of the coming spending by taking the easiest route and just increasing the level of indebtedness of the United States Federal Government will be ridiculed by the President and his minions in the press. Some of the driving reasons that the debt limit is once again being crashed has a lot to do with the fact that there has yet to be a single budget passed during the entire Presidency of Barack Obama. This even includes the first two years of his first term when the Democrat Party held a filibuster proof majority of over sixty in the Senate and a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives which in theory should have allowed President Obama to pass any legislation and establish any program his heart desired. Despite this unopposable majority in Congress, President Obama never passed a single budget as even the Democrats attempted to prevent some of his spending and he never passed his Cap and Trade energy legislation though he did manage to force Obama Care through the Congress using brute force along a party line vote which had not a single Republican supporting the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

 

President Obama’s Presidency could be defined as an Administration which never found an increase or new expenditure it didn’t love. Since President Obama, possibly to his credit, did close down two fronts in what was originally labeled the War on Terror by ending much of our deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, there should have been a savings which would have been reflected in budgetary savings, lower debt, and an economic peace dividend. The fact that we not only did not receive such a bonus and instead have found ourselves raising the debt ceiling repeatedly and facing budgetary shortfalls and an anemic economic recovery if any is just another result of an Administration whose spending is completely out of control. President Obama has craftily and cunningly used Continuing Resolutions in order to compound the spending increases thus causing vast additional spending across the boards on social programs. Even draconian spending cuts to the Military budget and cuts to the NASA budget (which never garner much savings as the NASA budget is less than 1% of the total budget) have failed to balance the excessive added spending on existing social programs and on the new social programs initiated by the Obama Administration. Yet, when the debate over raising the debt ceiling begins we can expect the usual blame game claiming the Republicans are trying to refuse to pay for spending which has already been approved and that these despicable Republicans would default on the United States payments on her debt. There is not an ounce of truth in either of those accusations. The Treasury Department receives inflow of cash every day from the Internal Revenue Service and from other taxes, tariffs, fines, and other revenue sources which are vastly greater on a daily basis than is the scheduled debt payment. Simply put, the debt payment can be made out of what we could call ready cash which the government takes in each and every day. Any claim that by not raising the debt ceiling we would default on our debt payment is simple demagoguery and absolutely false, but I guess we have all gotten used to lies from Washington no matter which party has the majority.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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