Blowhards can’t shut all of us down

No way I’m going to choose to take a day off when people I know are being forced to stay home, all for the sake of politics, and bad politics at that.

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For a couple of weeks, I’d planned to take today off. Doctor appointment, work in a few errands and odd jobs around the house, etc.

Now, wild Tea Partiers couldn’t keep me away.

No way I’m going to choose to take a day off when people I know are being forced to stay home, all for the sake of politics, and bad politics at that.

The shutdown of the federal government is an affront to self-government, to the concept of democracy in a republic.

Worse, it will have a real impact on real people. Not just the employees, some of whom are friends who live in my community — West Branch, the birthplace of President Herbert Hoover. Some are employees of the National Park Service, running and maintaining a national park; some work at the Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, part of the National Archives. But it also affects the rest of us. We all benefit from their work, some more directly than others.

Just yesterday on my way to work, I passed one of them working on railings of a bridge that children in our community cross on the way to school. She and some of her co-workers have kids in our schools, or have in the past. Wonder if she’ll be working tomorrow, I thought.

The national parks are, as a friend of mine pointed out this morning, some of the best places our country has to offer and we employ people to maintain them, preserve them and share the stories they hold. These federal employees — like those who preserve our physical and financial security — are routinely assailed by some who portray them as unnecessary and wasteful, among other things.

The portrayals say more about the portrayers than about their targets, the people we hire to do what needs doing.

And what they do needs doing, in practical terms certainly, but also because they remind us more of what unites us than of what divides us.

OK, now I’m off to my doctor’s appointment. But I’ll be back to work afterward, because blowhards in Washington can’t shut all of us down.

Posted by Mike Owen, Executive Director

Article III, Section 24

Most years, nobody would give Article III, Section 24, a second thought. Textbook civics. But 2011 is no ordinary year. It’s making us think outside the textbook.

Mike Owen
Mike Owen

It is a simple line in the Iowa Constitution, found in Article III, Section 24:

Appropriations.  SEC. 24.  No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

Most years, nobody would give it a second thought. Textbook civics. But 2011 is no ordinary year. It’s making us think outside the textbook.

In short: What happens if there is no budget agreement by the July 1 start of the fiscal year? A succinct Iowa Fiscal Partnership backgrounder on the topic illustrates a few of the potential effects of a shutdown — at least several concerns that certainly should be addressed. While no one presumably wants to see a state shutdown, the thought of it does show why our public structures matter to everyone in the state, and why a shutdown would hurt. Already we can expect cutbacks in several areas — education and environmental quality enforcement among them — even without a shutdown.

While Governor Branstad’s chief spokesman dismisses such discussion as “hysterical hypotheticals,” common sense would suggest to anyone with a calendar that it’s worth thinking about.

And, in fairness to the Governor’s spokesman, the Governor may be thinking about it: “Our focus remains on the efforts necessary to continue the operations of state government rather than shutting it down.” The Governor himself indicated to the media that if necessary, a temporary bill could be passed until a final agreement is reached.

The latter would presumably meet the dictates of Article III, Section 24. And it would be nice to know how specifically our elected officials plan to do so — which services would continue, and which would be cut back, if the budget haggling goes on.

It is, after all, our business. The politicians are only the hired help.

Posted by Mike Owen, Assistant Director