WINDSOR MILL, Md, - As we begin the 7th day of the 2013 government shutdown few have paid attention to the thousands of contractors working for the federal government. Unlike many federal workers, federal contractors are still required to report to work and their paychecks still come in regularly, but this past week has been far from regular.
On a normal day for the CMS IT Service Desk, located in Baltimore, MD, they would receive anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 calls; all handled by a team of about 15 people. During the government shutdown their call volume is down to only 150 calls per day, 10% of their volume when the government is active.
Calls come in so few and far between, analysts have been forced to find other ways to fill their days. “It’s a major problem for us. We are usually very quick and efficient, but our analysts are so starved for human contact that they talk with the few customers that call in for hours.” says Rebecca Alvarez, a manager at the CMS IT Service Desk. After speaking with Ms. Alvarez further, I learned that one of the analysts had begun a relationship a person who called in, having dialed the wrong number.
Analyst Hayden Savage has completed 25 games of EVIL Sudoku and has started a book club. “This past week has been really difficult for us. We’ve been pushed to our limits. I think I have enough computer games for a week, maybe two, but after that I’m not sure what we’re going to do.” stated Savage “If it wasn’t for all the people calling in with problems with Obamacare I don’t know where we would be. At least there’s that to be thankful for”.
Both Apple and Android have reported a noted spike in smartphone games being downloaded during the government shutdown. It has not yet been determined if this has been caused by the government shutdown.
Government contractor, Alex Fillion, works out of the Honolulu HUD office. Normally he is holed in his office managing property deals among the state’s five main islands. However, this week we caught up with Fillion at a local Sandals Resort nursing his 4th Mai Tai “Anyone who has ever been to Hawaii knows that this isn’t the kind of place you want to be with nothing to do. Frankly, I don’t know how much longer I can stay out here. I’m tanning right now, but after I’m going to start to burn before long.”
On all sides people are feeling the financial squeeze of the shutdown, but few know the mental strain and anguish as the unfurloughed contractors hardly working around the country.
*** (written at work during the shutdown)
im-o-keij said: Do you seriously believe Obamacare is good for this country? If so, can you give me five reasons how it will benefit the average family of four? And, I'm just going to say straight up, you're black, you only voted for Obama because he has the same skin color as you. That's pathetic. You're pathetic. Next time you should look at Obama's policies instead of the color of his skin, you racist prat.
From the bottom of my heart:
Go fuck yourself. Preferably with something large and painful.
The Teabaggers called it. They were way ahead of the curve. on this one. Terrorist have in fact been elected into office. Of course, the terrorist I’m referring to are the Tea Party congressmen themselves, becuase I don’t know what else to call someone who uses the threat of disorder and a government shutdown for personal and political gain.
If any other group or person threatened to shutdown the government for in exchange for what would essentially be repeal of US law on the books would be correctly labelled as a terrorist. A government shutdown is obviously not in America’s interest and the threat of it is an act of treason. I would like to say that I’m say that I’m surprised that the “patriots” of the Tea Party would be so hypocritical, but horrible actions often come cloaked in twisted idealism. There is a proper political process for repealing laws, but the tea party is trying to exploit a loophole to blackmail the government and the administration. The already shady loophole of pork has been further perverted by pinning a list of demands to funding essential government functions.
This kind of rhetoric should not be tolerated. I am for a healthy debate over the issues, but to use the well being of this country as leverage is utterly reprehensible. I’m an analogy person so let’s put this in an analogy; imagine if you were having a civil debate with a spouse and when the other person was losing they suddenly grabbed your child and threatened to drop the baby if you didn’t agree with them immediately. Yeah, let that sink in for a second.
I would like us to stop this madness and return to civil debate, but I don’t know if we even know what that looks like anymore.
The inmates have taken over the prison. The consumer is now dictating the terms of how they consume media, and consequently what media is produced. I think this is horrible. It’s common knowledge that the news articles that draw eyes are not the kind of critical information that properly informs an electorate, it’s stories about Kardashians and cat videos.
If we are to all participate in this democracy then we have to know the information that is relevant to our nation (sorry tumblr, cat videos are not relevant). It scares me that so many people have essentially opted out of our democracy. They have become disillusioned with the democratic process (understandably so). Our country and government are so expansive that it appears to be inaccessible and impervious to their outcries. Consequently these people essentially give up and don’t participate. They ignore the relevant information and focus on the fluff and entertainment to distract them from the feeling that they have no control. Although this is an understandable and natural reaction we cannot indulge on the candy and eschew the vegetables in our informational diet.
I would like to pay a tax to subsidize news. However I cannot overstate that news should always be independent of the government, especially as the government becomes more alienated from it’s people, but I don’t think that journalist should operate with a profit motive. Capitalism does not work for every system. Good journalism cost money, but it is too important for people to decide that they don’t want to buy it. I don’t know anything about how much it cost to run a newspaper, but I know that I would pay a $1 tax from each paycheck to go toward local and national news coverage. Again, it is imperative that this money go to independent news organizations with no strings attached.
That title should not make sense. Those two things should be virtually synonymous. However, the Government has separated itself from the people and the people feel alienated from the government. To many Americans our government seems inaccessible and independent from the governed.
A casual experiment on Google shows that “our government” turns up about 12,000,000 hits while “the government” turns up 285,000,000. This is hardly scientific, but I think it hints at the cultural idea that people feel that their government is a separate entity from their lives and society, a force which they often feel in conflict with.
This represents a fundamental breakdown in what government is supposed to be. I was listening to an interview on WTF with Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller), a proud libertarian, where he said that he hates taxes and called for all Americans to use their money and resources to support the less fortunate and support our society instead of the government (paraphrasing). You may be thinking now what I was thinking, because at the time I was screaming in my car “That’s exactly what government is doing!” I think my screams were partially right, that’s what government is supposed to be, but is that what our government currently is?
Another point that Penn made was that he believes that individuals can make better decisions for themselves than a collective, a point which I definitely disagree with for two reasons. I’ll point to the fact that we have to have seat belt laws in order to reduce motor vehicle deaths and other laws that legislate common sense as evidence. Secondly, people are not very altruistic if left to their own devices, so it is up to a collective to collect this “mandatory altruism” aka taxes in order support the necessities of a society. What that collective does with those taxes afterward is a different story.
To touch on a slightly different side of this issue is the government’s recent and historical privacy abuses. The Pentagon, NSA, CIA etc. have alienated themselves from the American people because are in the habit of not trusting anyone without a security clearance. While that kind of attitude is partially justified for security reasons, it leads to a sense of paranoia and distrust of your own countrymen and treating them all as potential enemy combatants. This kind of feeling and fear also trickles down to local levels to create this police state where the power balance is being shifted away from the people. The government is fearful of Americans undermining them and Americans are fearful of the same. We are locked in a civil cold war with our own institutions.
I believe that government should be a permanent collective institution whose primary concern is the betterment of the the quality of life of ALL of it’s citizens and also participates as a good global citizen. Currently our government is an elite power structure that primarily serves and is concerned with other elite private power structures, treating ordinary citizens as fuel for a self serving vision of the future. There have been some bright moments when the concerns of the little man has broken through, but I must pessimistically say that there have not been many (if any) breakthroughs that have happened contrary or even independent of business interest. And I feel that that is a true sign of a broken so-called democracy.
Can I just come back or do I need to a press release type post to explain my absence?
Oh, I can just come back
hiatus nearly over…