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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Federal shutdown politics

Uploaded: Oct 3, 2013
The media is naturally abuzz with stories about the impacts of the government shutdown.
As with the sequester earlier this year, the Obama Administration seems to have gone out of its way to effect as many people as possible. It shut the White House for tours when the sequester took effect and took the unprecedented action of putting barriers around monuments in Washington D.C. that normally are open 24 hours a day without admission—the Lincoln and Jefferson and the World War II monuments were among them.
What's truly challenging in this war of words is to understand that principle grounds some of the dispute as well as the reality that some members of the House of Representatives face at home.
Democrat leaders love to say that the law passed Congress and was adjudicated in the Supreme Court. They conveniently overlook that it cleared the Senate only through a questionable parliamentary maneuver with no votes from the Republican party in either house. It is the first major expansion of the entitlement state ever to be done through brute force by a single party. The national polling has demonstrated that a majority of the country does not want the law.
The media coverage has cited those affected by the shutdown—what has been largely missing is how the law is fundamentally changing employment. Many companies that utilize part-time workers have cut hours to ensure employees do not reach the 30-hour threshold and thus require health care or paying an expensive penalty. That's even true of many cities that have looked at the numbers and concluded they needed to adjust their part-time policies.
An excellent Wall Street Journal interview recently with a CEO in the temporary employee business cited just how his business is thriving because many companies do not want to hire full-time without a significant "test drive" of a potential employee.
The other missing link is recognizing how divided the country is and how skewed most Congressional districts are to one party. Depending upon what firm/professor you follow, 50 or fewer of the 435 Congressional seats are in play. More than 325 are considered safe.
For instance, let's take our local representative Eric Swalwell. In the heavily Democratic 15th district, his challenge will come from a fellow Democrat, just as he took advantage of the open primary to challenge 20-term incumbent Pete Stark and then won in the general election.
Termed-out state Senator Ellen Corbett has formed a campaign committee to challenge Swalwell next year. It's a district that no Republican will win with the Cook Report rating at a Democrat plus-16.
So, just as it is in one-sided districts in both parties elsewhere, the challenge is being either liberal enough or conservative enough to carry the party-specific primaries that are common across the country. Swalwell picked up plenty of independent and conservative voters (as few as there are) who people willing to vote for anyone but Stark.
So take these realities and attitudes into the current stalemate in Congress. Representative from districts solidly in their party have no self-interest in compromising and giving a primary challenger ammunition.

What is it worth to you?


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