*Sigh* These government shutdown rumors didn't faze me too much. If anything, the situation simply proves that our elected leaders are every bit the spoiled children we have always suspected them to be, preferring to take their respective balls and go home rather than actually work out solutions that benefit the country they "serve."
And you know what? This isn't exactly the first time we've faced a government shutdown. It happened back in 1995 (again due to head-butting amongst our two primary parties) and we're still here. However, it's still going to cause a lot of problems, especially if it's a relatively long-term problem. Most disturbing is that if this shutdown were to happen, there is a chance our military will go without pay. This is sick. Our military, whether you support every mission they are sent on or not, nevertheless risks life and limb out of duty to our country, and they have made numerous personal sacrifices in order to keep us safe. The absolute least our childish politicians can do is see to it they are at least monetarily rewarded for all they have done for us.
I'll admit, both Republicans and Democrats have me pretty disgusted right now. However, one key issue this should bring to the forefront of our thought and discussion is the budget. People, we need to cut spending. Look at the amount of debt we're in right now. Look at the condition of our economy. The government is spending money on a LOT of really, really dumb things, and also a lot of not-so-dumb things that nevertheless need to be curbed. If we are to have any hope of rejuvenating our economy, maybe we should put our special interests on the back burner and focus on things that actually make a difference to the daily life of ALL Americans, not just the lobbyists of the week.
What matters to all of us? Education. Our public school system suuuuuuucks. Yes, we have a lot of very capable teachers and a lot of good materials out there, but the program itself is flawed. Our children need to be provided a school experience that leaves them intellectually competent, physically fit and interested in improving the world around them. They need to understand the concepts of curiosity, accountabilty and good citizenship. And it's not just the public school system that needs maintenance and improvement, but also colleges. In this society, a good education is vital to a prosperous nation. Better education means better jobs, and even if the job market remains sparse, knowledge is still something that cannot be taken away by any recession.
Also, national defense is important to our nation. Do I support nuclear warfare and weaponry? Heck, no--but we still need to understand how it works and how to counter it. Also, as one of the world's superpowers, let's face it, we've got a target painted on us. No matter how much we try to provide aid to struggling nations and promote goodwill amongst those around us, we're still criticized for not doing enough. Whenever we try to remove harmful dictators who destroy their own people, we are called warmongers and condemned for our "ulterior motives" (You know what, I don't care if the Iraq war was all about oil--I'm glad Saddam is gone. What I do care about is the fact that it was a poorly-executed war that resulted in far more lives lost than could ever be deemed necessary, but even though the means were horrifically flawed, that one result was nevertheless a positive one, even if the product of a Pyrrhic victory). Y'know, other countries really don't like us--we're fat, stupid, arrogant slobs who don't give a crap about the rest of the world. Fat, stupid, arrogant slobs who provided $44.9 billion in foreign aid in 2009. You know what? Yes, we are too bloody self-absorbed for our own good. Yes, we could probably use a healthy dose of humility and a refresher course in responsibility and self-discipline. But we do care. We definitely do care. But I digress--the point is, a lot of people hate us, and 9/11 proved that America's enemies are not afraid to attack us on our home turf. As such, we need to keep our military strong and capable. We need to constantly strive for peace while being prepared for war if it should arise--as the term "national defense" states, we must be prepared to defend our nation. Should our troops still be in the Middle East right now? That's a matter of opinion. But we still need to keep our military well-supported and prepared. Granted, there are probably a lot of areas within the military that we don't need to spend quite so MUCH money on, so some cuts can certainly be made there.
We also need to maintain our infrastructure. For instance, road improvements and maintenance are vital to our country, not only because they keep us driving smoothly but because they provide much-needed jobs. Let's hear it for MODOT!
Those three are the main things. Of course, Social Security is important. Of course, if we can find some way to make universal healthcare work without completely f***ing up our system, that would be a positive, too. Of course, there are plenty of aid programs and government policies that do a lot of good and need to be maintained. But after that? We need to take a hatchet to our spending, and there's a lot of crap that needs to go.
But y'know what? The sweeping changes that need to be made to our budget aren't going to happen in the foreseeable future because our government is too wrapped up in partisan rhetoric and one-upping one another. I think next year will be a very interesting one for the American people. Unless Palin gets the nomination (God help us all), I honestly don't foresee Obama winning his reelection bid. I'm sorry, but this was exactly what I expected from his presidency--not a disaster, by any means, but not a particularly effective leader. I mean, he's quite possibly the most whitebread president we've ever had, which is really kind of ironic. What's really funny is that he himself really didn't promise all that much, but with everyone from Oprah to Hulk Hogan telling us he was the savior of the free world, the Great African-American Hope, the hype really became ridiculous. Barack Obama seems like a pretty cool guy. I'd gladly meet him if I were given the chance--we'd grab some chicken parm at The Rome and talk comics--but I don't think he's got the experience or the assertive personality necessary to make the "Change" our country actually needs. Obama's not the right guy for the presidency, and hopefully we'll have a better choice next year. Has Obama ruined the country? Nahhh, and honestly, he's done better than I expected him to. But he's still not the guy for the job. That's that.
Of course, the biggest problem we have with our economy stems from the American people themselves. As a society, we're pretty f'd up. Our values system is soooo greedy and based on instant gratification. Bottom line: a system that allows people to rack up umpteen-thousand dollar credit card debts needs some changes, BUT the society within it, which is so obsessed with getting as much as possible for as little as possible, is in need of an overhaul more than anything. Seriously, we've got to learn to live within our means . . . but hey, that's another essay I have buried somewhere which I will find, retype and post eventually.
So far, it looks like we're not going to have a shutdown. As you may have noticed, I wrote most of this last week, when it looked like we WERE going to have one. I still needed to get a lot of BS off my chest, though. Nevertheless, from what I've heard, it seems as though our military personnel were not properly paid last week. THAT, if it is the case, is ridiculous.
Oh, and my tax return might not be mailed on time. Thrillville.