Government Shutdown Speaks Volumes About Who And What This Country Values Least
(See drone update at the bottom)
House Republicans are heartless assholes for shutting down the government over a healthcare reform law that isn’t even affected by the shutdown. But the people in charge of determining what gets funded and what gets axed in the event of a shutdown are proving to be even bigger monsters.
The US Office of Personnel Management issued guidelines to help government agencies determine who goes to work and who stays home in a shutdown. Those who will continue to work—classified as “excepted”—are defined as employees “performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appears to have applied these guidelines in the most ironic manner possible. “Immigration Enforcement and Removal Operations”, otherwise known as deportations, will carry on because DHS considers this “necessary for safety of life and protection of property.” Local and state fusion centers—which a Senate investigation concluded were plagued by civil liberties intrusions and do little to make the country more secure—will also continue to function.
Meanwhile, DHS services and programs that will cease include “State, local, and federal law enforcement civil rights and civil liberties training”, “Civil rights and civil liberties complaint lines and investigations” and the “Chemical site security regulatory program.” In other words, who needs civil rights training when there are brown people to deport? And just because chemical plants explode every so often, doesn’t mean regulating them is more important than keeping ineffective fusion centers open.
The Office of the Pardon Attorney is the only area of the Department of Justice that will shut down completely. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will furlough 70 percent of its 1,339 employees, who are tasked with, among other things, processing immigration cases and appeals. With a 560-day backlog under normal circumstances, there’s no doubt immigration cases will experience even longer delays, likely leading to longer stays in immigration detention for immigrants awaiting proceedings. The DEA, however, will carry on largely unhindered because not even a government shutdown can stop this country from executing the war on drugs.
While DHS and DOJ have little to worry about in a government shutdown, other agencies haven’t been quite as lucky.
Ninety-four percent of employees with the Environment Protection Agency will be furloughed. I suppose this means monitoring air quality and making certain our drinking water is safe doesn’t qualify as essential for protecting human life.
At the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), where “the safety of human life” is implied in the organization’s title, 52 percent of employees will be furloughed. This doesn’t bode well for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which will have a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.” We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that a life-threatening disease outbreak can wait for Congressional Republicans to finish throwing their temper tantrum.
The shutdown requires that we also bid a temporary farewell to FDA food safety programs, including routine food inspections. Now might be a good time to start praying that Salmonella takes a break from contaminating food.
Other DHHS programs that will cease altogether include child vaccination programs, support for AIDs treatment, medical care for Native Americans and the list goes on. Perhaps these are essential for the protection of human life, but the real question is whether these are human lives the government cares about protecting.
It’s important to note, that throughout the shutdown, military recruiters will remain on the job, another bizarre priority in light of what’s being shutdown.
Though many safety net programs, like social security and food stamps, will remain intact, a government shutdown means funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will come to a halt, leaving nearly 9 million low income mothers, pregnant women, infants and small children cutoff from government food assistance.
“States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, including spendforward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period,” the USDA said over the weekend.
But don’t worry, the NSA will continue to spy on us, which is clearly more essential than getting baby formula to low-income infants.
NSA surveillance is also more important, it seems, than early childhood education given that the shutdown caused 19,000 children to lose access to Head Start beginning today. This comes on top of the elimination of 57,000 children from Head Start in August as a result of the sequester.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how badly this shutdown is hurting 800,000 federal workers who will be forced to go without pay. Meanwhile, Congress still gets paid (but not congressional staffers). Is your blood boiling yet?
To summarize, what is being called a “government shutdown” is actually a shutdown of government programs that help poor people and protect the health and safety of the masses.
Don’t expect the government shutdown to hinder US war-making.
In a video message to the armed forces, President Obama declared, “Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status.” He continued, “The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency,” adding, “Ongoing military operations — like our efforts in Afghanistan — will continue.”
So will drone strikes.
The Air National Guard said yesterday that furloughs at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York, will not impact the “80 technicians considered essential for the ongoing operations of the 174th Attack Wing, which remotely operates a squadron of MQ-9 Reaper drones from the Mattydale base.” The same goes for airmen who remotely pilot Predator drones for the 178th Fighter Wing at the Air National Guard Base in Springfield, Ohio.
In other words, Afghanistan will remain occupied and drones will continue to strike.