The recent U.S. Government partial shutdown became an entertaining read in terms of validating the dysfunctional U.S. Government rivaled only by the California State Legislature. The 16-day partial shutdown had to do with the debt ceiling coupled with differences in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The last shutdown occurred in late 1995 and lasted 21 days. However, the partial shutdown did not affect the mail, the military, or Social Security payments. It continues to amaze me that when the U.S. Government finds itself in a financial bind, it just raises its debt limit while we at the local level must live within our means.
As it might seem strange to have budget issues at this time of the year, many municipalities and governmental entities have a fiscal year from July 1 to June 30; the U.S. Government has a fiscal year from October 1 to September 30.
Since the U.S. Government was in a cash-strapped position to pay for existing programs, failure to increase the debt limit would have meant that our government would be in a position to not pay all of its bills. A Congressional spending bill was passed by both houses of Congress which allows temporary government spending through January 15, 2014 and raises the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014 thus avoiding defaults on U.S. debt payments. The international financial system relies on the American economy and its U.S. Treasury bills and a crack in the foundation of that stability would mean that the international financial system could be looking into the face of a contraction and possibly a severe recession.
While some are breathing a bit easier, the problem has only been kicked a little bit further down the road. Congress has provided itself a bit of time relief; however, the bill does not address many of the contentious issues that created the differences resulting in the shutdown. Current spending levels are only covered through January 15, 2014, which is a short 90 days from now. In governmental circles, 90 days is but a blink of an eye. Also, expectations are high that the same issues will be discussed, debated, and continued posturing will be in play. Some fear that this experience will become a permanent feature of future budgetary processes.
The government shutdown has come at a price as estimates from $25 to $55 billion have been taken out of the economy that is still struggling to resurrect itself from the current recession. Holders of debt instruments seem to get very nervous when the name of the payer is coupled with the term default and shaken confidence is often difficult and time-consuming to turn around.
As government employees return to work, they are faced with "catching-up" for the missed work since the private sector of the economy needing governmental services did not shut down. Government spending has been curtailed and many contractors must wait for the dust to settle and little is expected to be resolved in the next 90 days.
The IRS has announced that it will be delaying the date it will begin accepting tax returns from the anticipated January 21st and should begin somewhere between January 28th and February 4th which means the refunds will be delayed. However, April 15th remains the dreaded deadline date.
We can feel somewhat dismayed that while government workers were furloughed and work continues to backlog, both houses of Congress continue to be paid – amazing!
Leaders of both houses of Congress will be involved in ongoing meetings with the hopes of compromise to deal with the budget for the rest of this fiscal year. While each side of the aisle is pointing their finger at the other, this shutdown does little to remove the built up tarnish to the U.S. Congress. I would be pleasantly surprised to see agreement within the 90 days but have little expectation that any movement will happen before the "last minute" - again.
Wouldn't it be a breath of fresh air if our representatives in the U.S. Congress and in Sacramento started focusing on the interests of those who voted for them rather than focusing along partisan lines? When I see legislative voting results with one party voting one way and the other party voting another for the sake of party unity, I question why we voted for them in the first place as they do not seem to represent us – the voters.
I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at email@example.com. or 650-573-7359.
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