Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Hunt for Red October

In a departure from my normal self-centeredness, I decided to do a bit of research on one of my LEAST favorite topics.

Politics. The Government "shutdown".

In the hours before the United States faces a government shutdown, many people wonder what that will mean for individuals in this country. A government shutdown is defined as a situation in which the government stops providing all but essential services. This does not include our emergency responders, National Weather Service, postal service, armed forces or air traffic control. Also, groups that do not require government appropriations, like Medicare and Social Security, will continue to stay open. What this does mean, however, is that many federal employees will be furloughed or not paid on time. It is estimated that some 800,000 federal civilian workers will be furloughed for the length of the impending shutdown; this does not include any of the players in Congress, however. They are protected.

Any other federal agencies that will be closed during a government shutdown are not known until the Office of Management and Budget reviews and determines the course. In the past, passport offices, national parks, museums, and Washington D.C. Municipal District were shut down, the latter causing the public schools and many utilities to be closed.

Since 1976, the United States Government has been shutdown 17 times, the longest consecutive days was September 30 to October 18, 1978, when it stayed closed for 18 days. Based on the statistics, however, if the government does close, it is estimated to be very short-lived. Congress has the task of raising the debt ceiling so that this country can thrive. This task has been done since 1917 with a mere 17 closures, so it shouldn’t really be such a daunting task.

Political Party?

I don't really have a political party. It does not mean I do not care. I was raised in a Democrat household and for that I believe I am thankful. For the most part, my parents are very open-minded. Again, for that I am thankful. Dad was in a union. I think there were times in our young country's history that the labor union landscape was necessary to protect workers from RIDICULOUS working conditions.

Just like many great ideas across time ... the stalwart of the Democratic party (the good of the people) has been abused, bastardized and finally morphed into something unrecognizable. Is it communism? No. If you have any people around you spewing bile about communism ... look up the history of communism and you will see for yourself that there are very little resemblance between our current state and "mother Russia". Get a grip on reality people.

From a person that grew up in Lithuania during the height of communism:

- Even though jobs were easy to find, but buying power of the most people was very low. There were not enough goods to buy at the stores. Some areas of the U.S.S.R. experienced food shortages.
- One could not just go and buy a car. Permits to buy a personal vehicle were distributed by the government.
- Housing was an issue for many people. Some families were forced to share apartments/houses with several other families.

etc. etc.

I would vote for a party called the Logic Party. There are ways to make decisions. There are whole disciplines dedicated to decision tree 'construction and travel'.

The Power Bandwagon

We, as a country, have become FAR too reliant on emotion when it comes to "band-wagoning". We choose the exact WRONG things on which to build a platform. Gun control, abortion, social security and welfare are certainly sexy topics that illicit a guttural response ... but these are questions/concerns that don't really have satisfying answers. I believe this is just our basal brains longing for competition and drama. All for the sake of what? Power? Control? Come on. How has that much power wielding ever ended well? Do the research. Too much power in one place is generally the beginning of the end of that place. Are we truly doomed to repeat history? I suppose so. At this rate the United States might just be a blip on the radar of human history.

Less Government - but within reason

If we decentralized the Federal Government and KEPT capitalism as the economical "soup de jour"; the majority of the people would be S C R E W E D. I cannot seriously believe that a capitalistic society could rely on "donations" from those with wealth to rebuild roads, pay for schools, pay for hospitals ... and forget about open-spaces and recreation. That National Park thing would be history VERY quickly. The earthy-crunchy in me shutters to think about a world without ANY of our National Parks and National Recreation Areas.

On the flip side - the current Government is absolutely bloated. It has been bloated for years. I am thinking the bloat started in the post WWII era - on the heels of the Great Depression. Sure, it has gotten super-bloated over the past 10 years or so - but this is a result of poor, short-sighted decisions made by a group of individuals that cannot possibly understand and analyze the data presented to them AND what that data and their decisions mean for the country ten or twenty years into the future. Our "Now!, Now!, Now!" attitude is getting us into trouble.

Think about this: (Triathlon geek analogy)

So let's pretend I am doing a "Double Ironman" These exist. A 4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run. You might think, short-sightedly, that I can go out and do that distance in 23 hours. You just take your 140.6 time and double it, right? This does not compute. There are so many variables to consider. 1) How am I possibly going to replenish the calories expended. A Bento-Box full of Hammer Gel is NOT going to suffice for this distance. I must see the entire race and plan for what will probably be a 40+ hour event. Running 53 miles after 224 miles on the bike will probably be less running and more walking. What about blisters? What about sleep? What about equipment failure? What about race support? You see my point? I do have to be able to think on my feet and react to unforeseen events - but if I go into this race with ZERO forethought and just "seize the day" I am much less likely to succeed.

My Final Rambling Thoughts

A country means we have some semblance of centralized unity. I like being able to say that I am American. I also like saying that I am a Kentuckian (banjo jokes go here). If we are part of the same country and we like that identity - then shouldn't we work to preserve that ideal? Should government control everything? No. Should we have only "state-level" government? No. Should we have ZERO government? Heavens to Betsy ... no way would this ever work. I have met people. Some of them would really frighten me in the absence of rules and prisons.

We should use government to provide a framework. We should use government to upkeep the infrastructure (yes, this does mean taxes in my head ... because the "donation" model will not work - pretend as we might). We should then put targeted and growth-controlled programs into place that contain people that are passionate about causes ... and use the governmental framework AND LOGIC to make change. There is no room in these causes for special interest. There is no room in these causes for big business. We have the concept of "church or state" ... which doesn't really work ... but the concept is admirable. It's like a security system that has "exceptions". The minute you introduce an exception to the security system you no longer have TRUE security. The minute you introduce a controlling variable (usually power or money (which is just paper-based power)) to influence a program decision ... that program then only works for that controlling variable.

Good thing I am not a politician. I don't play politics very well at all.