Three Months Later into a New Year: Since the Shutdown

Originally Written for Every Day News On Your Terms Now (dot) com

January 2014

It’s been three months, it’s a new year. Before December ended the House and Senate budget committee successfully created a federal spending budget. An outline that appropriators of the House Appropriations Committee still have to figure out how to actually make work, but through bipartition efforts at least that spending budget was seen to completion.  Between the costumes of Halloween, stuffing filled Thanksgiving, and starlight star bright Hanukkah/ Christmas, let’s look at a few other things our government did after the shutdown and into the pop, fizz, and clink of 2014.

Congress decided that in 2014 they will work less days, federal employees will get a 1% raise, and this ad (see left) was supposed to get healthy Millennials such as myself, excited about health care, by signing up on a website that doesn’t always work and everyone doesn’t completely understand.

Oh, and the President went home to Hawaii.

The ad, I get it; they were trying to be cute. I do have those glasses in red, I just liked an Instagram picture of a fashion blogger with a coat in that red and black print, my cupboard is stocked with hot chocolate, and sure I’ve considered the attributes of an adult onesie – hey it’s cold in the D.C. Metropolitan area. Turn on the news and you’ll see most of America is pretty much frozen right now. But here’s the thing, as a card carrying member of this tech savvy generation it’s hard for me to grapple with why a website would have issues day one of its launch date. I have IPAD apps more trustworthy and reliable. The distraction of a new hashtag introduction does little to make anyone forget that even if you want to be signed up properly, it might be no fault of your own if the process is postponed.

The federal administration projected/desperately wished/ maybe even hoped and prayed that 3.3 million Americans would be fully registered with healthcare.gov before you could say “Merry Christmas” on December 25. Instead little over 1 million did the deed. There are only a handful of deadlines left before forced fines will roll out this spring, so help us out and make sure we can sign up when we want to try. Who has all day every day to dedicate to this? I’m not going to be hoping and praying for your website to work when I have to get to work.  Just thinking about it is annoying, and enough to make one pause even before starting the process. My own repeated efforts through the state of Maryland’s health care exchange site continue to be problematic. Every single time I get closer and closer to completion, it freezes! Then remains frozen for the next several hours. (I’m still not done.) I missed the holiday deadline to sign up because of such website complications.

Now it’s just come out that the State Department has used over half a million dollars to get “likes” on Facebook. Fake likes at that! That money would have been better used on more important websites instead of a Facebook page! Let’s #gettalking about that.

About that federal employee raise that went into effect after the New Year ball dropped. John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service was eloquently quoted as saying, regarding the 1% raise, the first in years, for 2.1 million civilian federal work force and active military, as it being, “Psychologically, very valuable for the federal work force to see that there’s some recognition for the work that they do.”

Considering how the last few months have been filled with minimum wage complaints and protests throughout the nation, do they expect the rest of us not federally employed to tip our hats or something when in fact these employees, already earn, on average, almost twice the income and benefits compared to private sector workers. Yay…the workers who arguably don’t need a raise, the government agrees to give them one and meanwhile the same wages necessary to supply the tax dollars for said jobs, the government continues to have issue with regulating a minimum standard over in response to ever increasing costs of living.  Thirteen states are entering this New Year with wage increases (kudos to them!), but the federal minimum wage hasn’t moved a dime, and as was recently discussed on Slate.com’s political gabfest, we can expect it won’t be anytime soon. This is too bad, because the federal minimum wage law itself in its existence sets the standard and tone. Psychologically we all could use some recognition for the work that we do if that’s what a slight pay increases means these days.

In other news, Congress is back at work. There’s a Jan. 15 budget looming that the details of which will still be sorted out on until assuredly the very last minute. Anyone who’s worked on a school paper last minute can attest to this fact: when you work down to the wire things are sure to be overlooked and details will slide; all because it’s got to get done.

Last October all of America and the world, was forced to pay attention to what the government was and wasn’t doing till the last minute. Going into 2014 it’s been announced that Congress will be in session 113 days, 25 days fewer than the last. Many members say this time away from Capitol Hill will be well spent in their home states, helping them to be more in touch with the needs of those they represent. I sure hope they do use their time wisely because last minute bickering instead of consistent paying attention to your public is not what we elect officials to do.

Almost two weeks down 50 more to go.

(And Mr. President, how was Hawaii? Where’s my postcard?)

 

 

 

 

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