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Beam: Popular attractions in crossfire

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 7:35 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Thanks to two events involving the military, the silliness of this government shutdown has been brought into full focus. It began just over a week ago when World War II veterans from Arizona were initially denied entrance to the Washington, D.C., memorial honoring their service. The second came Tuesday when it was reported that families of fallen U.S. military personnel were being denied death benefits.

And whose fault was it in both instances? Republicans blame the Democrats and President Obama. The president and the Democrats say it’s the GOP House that is causing the problems.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, sized up the memorial closing well, according to a Cronkite News Service report.

“The truth is that I know there’s a lot of grandstanding that surrounds events like this,” Franks said. “But the bottom line is that this government spent more money closing this memorial than they have just keeping it open.”

Denial of those death benefits had the two major party leaders pointing their fingers at one another. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called denial of the benefits “disgraceful,” insisting the Defense Department had been given the authority to make the payments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the situation “appalling,” continuing the line that Republicans are holding the country hostage.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-N.C., put the situation in proper perspective.

“Your government has let you down in a time of your need,” Graham said, blaming Democrats, Republicans and Obama for letting this situation get out of hand.

Two deadlocks are at play here. Republicans continue passing bills keeping parts of the government running — things like the national parks, the Head Start pre-school programs and the payment of federal employees who have been working without paychecks. The White House and the Democrats say they don’t want to do anything piecemeal. They want the House to open the entire government and extend the nation’s debt limit with no questions asked.

Boehner said, “What the president said today was if there’s unconditional surrender by Republicans, he’ll sit down and talk to us. That’s not the way our government works.”

During an hour-long press conference, Obama said he was willing to talk about anything, as long as Republicans reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, even if its for a short period of time.

“Let’s stop the excuses. Let’s take a vote in the House. Let’s end this shutdown, right now; let’s put people back to work” he said.

As you can see, neither side is budging. Meanwhile, people are convinced that government agencies are being punitive during the shutdown. The Christian Science Monitor said “growing numbers of Americans are gleefully engaging in what they call ‘civil disobedience’ by tossing aside cones or jumping over government shutdown-inspired barricades around national monuments, malls and park entrances.”

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, told the Monitor, “We’ve gone from ‘this land is your land, this land is my land,’ to the government saying this land is its land. President Obama said that government is just a word for things we do together. Apparently that includes kicking WWII veterans off their memorial.”

Another strange rule was handed down in the Upper Florida Keys, according to the Miami Herald. Charter boat guides were informed by the National Park Service that they couldn’t take clients fishing in Florida Bay until the shutdown was over. The result was closure of 1,100 square miles of prime fishing that is off limits. The ruling also affected tour operators, paddling guides and fishing tournaments. Enforcement rangers were going to be on duty to enforce the ruling.

A jogger was fined $100 for running inside Valley Forge National Monument. Another was ticketed for entering Valley Forge National Historical Park through what he said was an ungated entrance. Rangers have been issuing fines to campers, bikers and hikers who jumped the barricades at Maine’s Acadia National Park.

The Christian Science Monitor said, “... Many of the open-air monuments currently barricaded were not closed during earlier shutdowns. Some, including the World War II Memorial, were closed by express orders from the White House, according to the Park Service.”

Obama administration officials counter that the Antideficiency Act passed in 1870 leaves them no alternative. It prohibits the government from making any financial obligations during a shutdown for which Congress hasn’t appropriated funding. They said they could be fired, penalized or imprisoned if they make the wrong choices.

That sounds like a convenient excuse for those who want to make this shutdown hurt Americans in every way possible. What is the likelihood that the federal agencies making these decisions are going to be punished by judicial agencies that are also part of the Obama administration? It won’t happen.

The shutdown isn’t going to end until both sides decide to compromise and make some concessions. However, it appears that neither is interested in giving any ground. If they don’t change their tunes, both will eventually pay a heavy political price for their stubbornness. The polls already have them in heavily unfavorable territory.

    • • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

Posted By: Bee Roach On: 10/10/2013

Title: The problem started with Republican President Ronald Regan according to Factcheck.org

Jim, would you agree: That the deficit was trending down until Ronald Regan took office as president, then it began to climb due to tax cuts (mostly for the rich) implemented by Regan. Increase in the deficit continued during GHW Bush's presidency. The skyrocketing deficit was checked and declined during Bill Clinton;s presidency. Under GW Bush's presidency, the afterburners kicked in and raised the deficit due to in part Bush's "war on teror," or maybe more appropriately, "oil grab." Now don't take my term "oil grab" wrong, I support our troops and defending our country from terror, but oil was a major motivation for action in the middle east. President Obama took office with a climbing deficit created during Republican presidencies. Although both a president and congress should take the blame for deficit increases, the facts show that the modern trend in deficit increase was begun under Ronald Regan's presidency and policies. A major problem with deficit reduction has been shown by the current government shutdown. Government spending pays for jobs. The Government has become a major employer. When the budget is cut, jobs are cut, which in turn lowers tax revenues and hurts the economy, in part due to the workers not having a paycheck to tax and money to buy things. We are seeing these effects in the current govenment shutdown. I think congress should take a pay cut and give up some its perks, i.e. raises, pension, healthcare, etc., to set the tone for belt tightening on spending. Does anyone think congress would take such action, I think not, unless their constituents realize the inequity of everyone else having to tighten their belt but them, and demand it.. A president and congress must work together in a reasoned and sensibile manner to reduce the deficit. Here's the link to factcheck.org if you are interested. http://www.factcheck.org/2012/02/dueling-debt-deceptions/

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Posted By: Joseph LeFevre On: 10/10/2013

Title: Popular Attractions in Cross Fire

Jim,
Should President Obama compromise in this situation? Would that not lend legitimacy to the idea that shutting down the government and/or forcing it into default is an acceptable political strategy whenever some portion of Congress disagrees with a law that is already in place? Would that not, in turn, inevitably lead to a loss of our country's economic leadership role in the world, since it would never be known when the value of the dollar would be threatened and when our country could keep its economic commitments?
There is an opinion, with some legitimacy, that the president has the authority to raise the debt limit himself. I wish he would do that in order to set a precedent for future presidents and thereby show that the tactic of threatening to force the government into default will not work. No doubt the House would impeach him, but the Senate would not convict him.
Joe

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