FEDERAL BUDGET

Smashing through debt ceiling

 
 
MCT
MCT
Nease / MCT

Newyorktimes.com

Good news: The people who track killer asteroids for NASA are still on the case, despite the government shutdown.

Bad news: A lot of the people who inspect food aren’t. The folks from the Department of Agriculture who check meatpacking plants are still working. But the guys at the Food and Drug Administration who make routine appearances at, say, the nut-shelling factory to look for vermin, are on furlough. Not to mention a lot of the people who check shipments of seafood or vegetables from outside the country.

“They’re not doing run-of-the-mill import inspections,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The FDA is really falling farther behind with every day.”

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to refund the FDA. This is part of a Republican strategy to approve the financing of things they like, one by one. It’s not entirely clear how popular the agency was before recent news of a salmonella outbreak erupted, but now it’s right up there with the national parks.

This is how members of Congress fill up their time during the current crisis. The Republicans introduce bills to fund a particularly sympathetic sector of government. The Democrats respond with a proposal to fund the whole government. Then the Republicans say the Democrats are the enemy of veterans, parks, national guardsmen or food inspections.

“Why don’t we open the parts of government that we agree to?” demanded Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“We’ll be here in December, doing agency by agency,” responded Dick Durbin, the assistant majority leader.

And the Environmental Protection Agency would still be on furlough. Also the Labor Department. And the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS would probably be the last to return. That would be very tough on people who have serious issues they need to resolve. For instance, my husband, Dan, recently received a notice from the agency announcing that he was dead. Apparently this is a fairly common error, but Dan wants to be bureaucratically resurrected, and there’s nobody on the other end of the phone to talk to.

Really, it’s all personal. In fact, a good way to think about the current standoff is that it’s a war between people who just want to have the government back and the people who want a new version of government with the priorities of Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida.

I am using Ted Yoho because he’s a voluble figure in the caucus of right-wing hard-liners in the House who caused the shutdown in the first place. Also in part because I really enjoy writing “Ted Yoho.” Also because he has also been one of the leading lights in the new crisis over whether to let the country go smashing though the debt ceiling.

“Everybody talks about how destabilizing doing this will be on the markets. And you’ll see that initially, but heck, I’ve seen that in my business,” Yoho told Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times. “When you go through that, and you address the problem and you address your creditors and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to pay you. We’re just not going to pay you today, but we’re going to pay you with interest and we will pay everybody that’s due money’ - if you did that, the world would say America is finally addressing their problem.”

Yoho was one of the very first members of Congress to verbalize the what-the-hey theory of global finance, possibly because he had all that background in debt management from his business, which is being a large-animal veterinarian.

A number of Republicans have begun using their life sagas to support similar theories.

“We have in my household budget some bills that have to be paid and some bills that we can defer or only pay partially,” Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said on CNBC. “I think paying interest on the debt has to be paid. I think paying Social Security payments have to be paid. But I don’t think paying the secretary of energy’s travel expenses have to be paid 100 cents on the dollar.”

This sort of suggests that some members of Congress regard the Department of the Treasury as a vast warren of people with checkbooks, sorting through the mail and writing apologetic notes to Delta and JetBlue explaining the problem. It most definitely suggests that you do not want to lend money to a lot of people in the House of Representatives.

But back to our list:

Good news: The congressional gym is open.

OK, possibly only good news if you are a member of Congress. Or a person who enjoys making fun of members of Congress.

Good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called back some of its furloughed employees to try to control that salmonella outbreak.

Bad news: Most of the CDC is still at home, including the ones who work on flu.

And our moral is: Get your flu shot, people. Cook your chicken well. Cross your fingers and pray.

© 2013 New York Times News Service

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • EARLY LEARNING

    The imperative is to educate our children

    When the two of us were graduated from high school, nobody seemed to be worrying about China or Brazil or India competing with us as an economy or in education. We took for granted that we were the best in the world in education and the economy and had no reason to believe that would ever change. Everyone seemed to be able to get a job — and to do so with not much more than the bare basics of education.

  • AUTISM

    Learning alongside my daughter, Bela

    My daughter, Bela, who has autism, doesn’t go anywhere without a pair of socks, which is odd because she never wears socks. Rather she carries them around as if they were dolls.

  • GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

    His words dazzled the world

    Gabriel García Márquez has left us. His was also a death foretold, but no less shocking, because we resist saying farewell to our heroes. And García Márquez, the immense writer, was a superhero of literature.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category