Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shutdown Shudders

The looming shutdown of the U.S. government due to an impasse over the 2011 federal budget (which they're already months plus into, it started Oct.10th, 2010) shows just how dangerously polarized Washington is these days.  As I understand it, budget cuts in the neighborhood of $33 billion were bandied about by Republicans in Congress as being the magnitude of the belt tightening needed, and White House/Congressional Democrats swallowed their pride and dug deep to come up with roughly $32 billion worth.  (Interestingly, both parties are totally ignoring the hard-fought, consensus recommendations reached by the President's much ballyhooed bipartisan Budget Commission over a six month period last year.)  But then the Republican old guard got some sudden and not so subtle push-back when party wags took that 30-something billion dollar slash and burn proposal back to caucus - notably from the newly elected (and emboldened) Tea Partiers.  Eager to placate them (and demonstrating just how powerful the TP has become) the Republicans now demand around $61 billion in cuts.  That has Democrats incensed, and here we are in a seemingly intractable mess - mere hours from a shutdown that would leave frontline soldiers unpaid (and unsupported by absent Pentagon workers), not to mention a dangerously-reduced cyber defense of critical U.S. government infrastructure databanks that hackers both foreign and private would just love to disrupt.  In Canada, a budget (next year's) unsupported by the majority just resulted in an election being called, but the U.S. system doesn't work that way.  Perhaps it should.