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Americans anxious, irritated as government shuts down

By Deepti Hajela

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:41 p.m. HST, Sep 30, 2013


NEW YORK >> From New York's Liberty Island to Alaska's Denali National Park, the U.S. government closed its doors as a bitter budget fight idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers and halted all but the most critical government services for the first time in nearly two decades.

A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed amid Congressional bickering, casting in doubt Americans' ability to get government services ranging from federally-backed home loans to supplemental food assistance for children and pregnant women.

For many employees of the federal government, Tuesday's shutdown meant no more paychecks as they were forced onto unpaid furloughs. For those still working, it meant delays in getting paid.

Park Ranger and father-to-be Darquez Smith said he already lives paycheck-to-paycheck while putting himself through college.

"I've got a lot on my plate right now -- tuition, my daughter, bills," said Smith, 23, a ranger at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio. "I'm just confused and waiting just like everyone else."

The impact of the shutdown was mixed -- immediate and far-reaching for some, annoying but minimal for others.

In Colorado, where flooding killed eight people earlier this month, emergency funds to help rebuild homes and businesses continued to flow -- but federal worker furloughs were expected to slow it down.

National Guard soldiers rebuilding washed-out roads would apparently be paid on time -- along with the rest of the country's active-duty personnel -- under a bill passed hours before the shutdown. Existing Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans' services and mail delivery were also unaffected.

Other agencies were harder hit -- nearly 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were furloughed along with most of the National Transportation Safety Board's employees, including accident investigators who respond to air crashes, train collisions, pipeline explosions and other accidents.

Almost all of NASA shut down, except for Mission Control in Houston, and national parks closed along with the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Even the zoo's popular panda cam went dark, shut off for the first time since a cub was born there Aug. 23.

As the shutdown loomed Monday, visitors to popular parks made their frustration with elected officials clear.

"There is no good thing going to come out of it," said Chris Fahl, a tourist from Roanoke, Ind., visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville, Ky. "Taxpayers are just going to be more overburdened."

Emily Enfinger, visiting the Statue of Liberty, said politicians need to find a way to work together.

"They should be willing to compromise, both sides, and it discourages me that they don't seem to be able to do that," she said. "They're not doing their job as far as I'm concerned."

Joe Wentz, a retired federal employee from Lebanon, Va., visiting San Francisco with his wife, bought tickets to visit Alcatraz on Thursday -- if it's open.

Wentz said he's frustrated that some politicians are using the budget to push changes in the Affordable Care Act.

"We've been disgusted a long time that they're not working together," he said.

The shutdown was strangely captivating to Marlena Knight, an Australian native visiting Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. She was confounded that the impasse focused on the nation's health care system -- an indispensable service in her home country.

"We can't imagine not having a national health system," she said. "I just can't believe that this country can shut down over something like a national health system. Totally bizarre, as an Australian, but fascinating."

It turns out an institution as massive as the federal government takes some time to grind to a total halt: Many federal workers were being permitted to come in Tuesday to change voicemail messages or fill out time cards. But after that, they were under strict orders to do no work, even check their email.

With no telling how long the budget standoff will last, even programs not immediately affected could run out of cash.

Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association, said its preschool learning programs would be in jeopardy if a shutdown lasted more than two weeks. March's automatic budget cuts meant nearly 3,000 children lost access to services and there could be dire consequences if the budget standoff drags on.

"It's not as though this is a throwaway service. These are the poorest of the poor children," Haxton said. "And our Congressman still gets his paycheck. His pay doesn't stop and his health insurance doesn't stop."







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lokela wrote:
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light What so proudly we hailed at the governments last gleaming? Whose fading broad stripes and dim stars thru the meaningless fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly failing? And the rocket's fizzling glare, the bombs no longer bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag is not there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner no longer wave O'er the land of the frustrated and the home of the brainless politicians?
on October 1,2013 | 06:40AM
realist3463 wrote:
Anxious, no. In spite of the "closure" of the federal government, the sun came up in the West. Maybe that is a sign that those portions of the government closed down are not really necessary and we should leave them closed forever. Irritated yes. I just cannot imagine how a country as great as ours could have people elected so dysfunctional to the top four positions in our government....make that five if you consider Roberts in the Supreme Court. God help our grandchildren. Vote them all out including our four miscreants.
on October 1,2013 | 07:31AM
realist3463 wrote:
Corrected comment. Anxious, no. In spite of the "closure" of the federal government, the sun did not came up in the West. Maybe that is a sign that those portions of the government closed down are not really necessary and we should leave them closed forever. Irritated yes. I just cannot imagine how a country as great as ours could have people elected so dysfunctional to the top four positions in our government....make that five if you consider Roberts in the Supreme Court. God help our grandchildren. Vote them all out including our four miscreants.
on October 1,2013 | 07:49AM
false wrote:
In the meanwhile, the stock markets are all posting healthy gains today. If this is a crisis, then we need more of them.
on October 1,2013 | 08:11AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Don't forget the light traffic this morning!!! One of the few things that really annoys me about this is that the federal employees will evenutally get paid for the time they are not at work. Why? Another political suckup.
on October 1,2013 | 08:24AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Boehner needs to wise up. 78% of the Country is against the conundrum he has let the Tea Party lead him into leading. This is the apex of the boomerang. The test was whether or not this ida would stick. And, it hasn't. Mr. Boehner either has to exercise clear headed discipline within his own caucus and move it away from "madness" legislative approaches, or reform his Speaker coalition with 20 from across the aisle. Otherwise, Dent from Pa. is looking good (an early voice of reason, a battleground state representative, and a natural skin color).
on October 1,2013 | 08:19AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Another opportunity to permanently cut "nonessential" , overpaid, underworked federal workers. Cut out all the fact and create a smaller but more efficient government bureaucracy. I hope they take advantage and clean house.
on October 1,2013 | 11:25AM
Ratrase wrote:
You say cut out the FACT, fact is a lot of the invisible services that you depend on, like food inspection, air traffic safety, and many government offices that you need to do official business with, will just get backlogged. Then when this is over, it will take a month of Sundays to catch up all the backlog, resulting in overtime which will cost all of us in the long run. All because a few Republican's are stomping their feet and holding their breath over a law that was passed 5 years ago and upheld as constitutional by the Supremes, that they don't like. They should be spanked and made to sit in a corner.
on October 1,2013 | 12:52PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
What happened to balancing the budget?
on October 1,2013 | 11:54AM
noheawilli wrote:
I'm not anxious or irritated, the DC gang can take the rest off the year for all I care.
on October 1,2013 | 02:20PM
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