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Still Worlds Apart

February 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

If progress is being made on keeping the government up and running beyond the March 4 deadline, it’s not being shared with the public. Both Democrats and Republicans have spent the week digging in their heels and pledging to move forward on their separate, conflicting paths, virtually guaranteeing that we will see a government shutdown while things are being worked out.

House Republicans announced yesterday that their first order of business when the come back next week will be to pass a two-week continuing resolution that would cut about $4 billion from current spending levels, which would be, essentially, a pro-rated version of the spending cuts in their rest-of-the-fiscal-year continuing resolution, perhaps even a little more aggressive. The Democrats in the Senate. “This isn’t a compromise, it’s a hardening of their original position,” Reid’s spokesman, Jon Summers, said. He’s right, of course.

But spending levels aren’t even the real debate. The bigger problem, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, is that the Republicans are using the continuing resolution as a means for pursuing their entire domestic policy platform, like defunding Planned Parenthood, blocking net neutrality rules, and preventing the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. That stuff is all in the continuing resolution the House passed last week, and it makes it nearly impossible for the two parties to strike a deal on the more practical matters, like keeping federal employees funded and benefits flowing to veterans,

If the only question was about funding levels, which was always expected to be a battleground, then it’s doubtful a compromise would’ve been impossible. The budget debate might have gone to the brink, maybe even shutting the government down for a few days before a deal was reached. In theory, however, it’s just not that difficult to cut a deal between one side that wants X dollars and another side that wants Y dollars spent on, more or less, the same set of programs … But, when it comes to the policy fights over health care reform, environmental regulations, Planned Parenthood, and other issues, there aren’t partial victories available. Democrats won’t give in, and House Republicans won’t either, at least not easily. To take just one example: If you’re a Republican congressman, once you’ve said that allowing funds to go to Planned Parenthood is basically just funding abortion (even if it’s not), how do you reconcile a “yes” vote on a compromise bill that allows funding for that organization?

I don’t know how this gets solved in the five days between when Congress comes back and all discretionary government funding expires. Maybe if Congress’ own salaries were dependent on them passing a spending bill they would find a way. But they’re not, and Congress’ immunity to the consequences of a government shutdown is probably contributing to the collective mindset that continues to steer this whole thing towards gridlock.

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  • TheDutchess 02/24/2011 12:39pm

    I wish more people would start a discussion about how employers are not hiring people that have been out of work for longer than 99 weeks. I exhausted my 99 weeks in September and I remained working hard at finishing my 4yr degree. I’ve done that and now I have been applying for jobs. I have not had 1 interview out of about 60 different jobs, not a one. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and have an extensive professional history. Now, I’m enrolled in a graduate degree program. What am I doing wrong? I have heard that companies are not hiring people that have been unemployed for a long period of time. These companies are going to put me in a shelter if that’s what they are doing….

  • Comm_reply
    badams82 02/24/2011 5:03pm

    Honey I have 3 degrees, graduated with honors, member of honor societies and I’m pre-med. Still no Job!! I’m going for 4th degree this fall while I wait to get into med school. Shoot at this point I’m staying in school/ getting in more debt to Survive until I get into med school. It’s insane. My husband was given a notice that he will be let go next week. Yay for our economy This is total BS!!

  • Comm_reply
    amy58103 02/25/2011 3:10am

    What are the 3 degrees? What will the 4th degree be in? Have you done any research to find out what types of companies are hiring and what kind of qualifications they are looking for? I found this article very interesting:,8599,2040964,00.html

    It seams to me that there are jobs out there, just not maybe the ones you want. In the past year the small (~45 employees) engineering firm I work for has hired 4 people.

    I really don’t understand the logic of going even deeper into dept while pursuing a 4th degree, especially given that your husband will be let go next week and then (from the sound of it) you will have zero income. I believe, at least with the Federal Student Loan program, you can get up to 3 years of deferment for “economic hardship.”

  • Comm_reply
    TheDutchess 02/27/2011 4:20pm

    It is definitely a catch 22. It appears as though there are tons of jobs out there. I have applied to at least 60 jobs, in different areas of industry, and it seems to me that even with Magna Cum Laude honors, enrolled in graduate school and years of professional experience, they still want someone with at least 0-2 years experience for entry level positions. What does that mean? Even if I qualified for the job based on their written requirements, they want someone that has previous experience in that field. They say the medical field is hiring. That’s why I enrolled in a graduate degree program in Information Systems so that I can show that I am still relevant. I believe that they are looking for specific types and if you have been receiving unemployment for a duration of time, then you are a has been. You are not even considered because they use indicators to filter you out. So your resume is not even reviewed at any level.

  • fakk2 02/24/2011 2:21pm

    I hate to say that Republicans aren’t doing their part of the job because they are the only branch that’s passed any resolution to keep the government moving, at least so far. And I can see where they shouldn’t necessarily use the CR or the budget for their social agenda, but being realistic, the Democrats dropped the ball on this.

    It would’ve been EASY to pass a budget last Congress which gave the Dem’s everything they wanted, and the Rep’s would’ve had to deal with it. But they didn’t, now 1 party is playing hardball against the other.

    And I don’t want to see the government shut down, but being honest, the Dem’s gave the Rep’s the ability to do this. I’m surprised they even agreed to a 2 week CR, but they aren’t wrong for saying they want $4 bil in exchange. It’s just like collective bargaining, once 1 side has the upperhand, they hardly ever give it up.

  • DeborahJBrown 02/25/2011 2:51am

    It seems the games go on… I almost hope that Republicans are only pretending to be completely ignorant about what Planned Parenthood does. The alternative is that they are too lazy to educate themselves before opening their big mouths. No one wants our country run on the basis of stubborn ignorance.

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