Yay! We have finally thrown off the yoke of oppression and are now truly free. As of midnight Monday night, the federal government exists in name only. It no longer has the resources, both financial and human, to function. That means, in essence, that rules, regulation and laws no longer matter because there’s no government to enforce them.
I was so happy, when I woke up Tuesday morning I immediately ripped the tag off the bed’s mattress despite the “penalty of law” warning.
Yes, free, free, free at last! No, wait. What’s this I’m hearing about a “partial” shutdown? Apparently some government services and personnel remain on the job. Apparently there are some things the government does that even Republicans agree are necessary. Apparently only “non-essential” government workers have been furloughed and sent home without pay which always begs the question, if they’re non-essential, what are they doing there in the first place?
It’s all very confusing. You can still mail a picture postcard of your vacation to one of the country’s national parks because the postal service is still running, you just can’t visit the national park because it’s closed. You will still get your Social Security checks, although perhaps a little later than usual, but you can’t apply for a Social Security card.
Congress will still get paid despite having nothing to do because of the shutdown but then Congress has always gotten paid for doing nothing.
But many government agencies are apparently considered non-essential, like the Veterans Administration and NASA. Tell that to the veterans and to the astronauts stuck on the space station. It was reported that NASA, already operating on a bare-bones budget and staff, had furloughed 95 percent of its employees because of the shutdown.
That means there are like two guys left in mission control to monitor all the satellites and spacecraft still buzzing around out there. That’s really bad timing considering we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch a glimpse of a new comet this week as it zooms close by Mars before reaching Earth the day after Christmas.
Comet Ison was supposed to come within 6 million miles of Mars on Monday. We have all kinds of cameras on and around Mars that could give us a good look at Ison before it reaches us.
Question is, do those few remaining NASA employees know which buttons to push to take its picture?
So while we all like to complain about government bureaucracy and spending, we often don’t realize just how much we depend on it and the good things it does, even when we’re just checking the weather forecast to see if it’s going to rain on our football game this weekend.
So let’s hope the Republicans in the House can get over their tantrum and accept that Obamacare is not going back in the bottle and stop holding the entire government hostage. Except, maybe, for the mattress police.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.