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 Post subject: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:07 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
I expected Steamtown, that's a pure NPS site, but this was a bit of a surprise - CVSR:

http://www.cvsr.com/how-the-federal-shu ... fects-cvsr

And Grand Canyon - a partial....

http://www.xanterra.com/news/potential- ... -shutdown/

Who else?

Maybe not a huge surprise, but also the STB:
http://www.stb.dot.gov/stb/index.html
And considering how picky and procedural they are about time deadlines on all matters, that should become interesting.

And you can't tell about the NTSB, because they can't update their web page..
http://www.ntsb.gov/


Last edited by Randy Gustafson on Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:43 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8354
Location: Baltimore, MD
Being stuck here too close to the Federal "company town" of Washington DC, I find it fascinating to see where and what media reaction is to this shutdown. The Washington Post, of course, believes its home city to be the center of the universe, and it and other media sources in the area around it, including the DC "suburb" of Baltimore, generally agree. Ditto major cities in the "Left Coasts." "Flyover Country?" Not so much.

A notable, and understandable, exception is Williams, "gateway" to the Canyon:

http://williamsnews.com/main.asp?Sectio ... leID=13739

The selected significant quotes:
Quote:
The Park Service will not permit visitors to enter Grand Canyon and overnight visitors already inside the park have 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave.
The Grand Canyon Railway is canceling reservations with full refunds for area visitors who don't want to take a chance on when the shutdown will end. The company's restaurants and gift shops in Williams will stay open, but its trains to the South Rim won't be operating.
"No guests will be out of any deposits," said Bruce Brossman, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra South Rim. "We are trying to reroute people from the South Rim to the railway hotel. We are offering them as many rooms as we can find. Of course that inventory is changing by the minute because people are canceling for tomorrow or tonight."
Williams resident Dave Thayer owns Canyon Dave Tours. He said the government shutdown could mean the end of his business.
"It's conceivable that I've lost my whole business," Thayer said. "We pretty much live hand to mouth like everybody else in Williams."
October is usually a big month for Thayer.
"And now it's not going to be anything," he said. "And we need money to save up for the winter and October is what does that."


The broader philosophical debate:
I've heard interesting, and illuminating, discussions and debate as to whether the recent long-term shift away from Federal employees to private service contractors to everything from maintaining National Park concessions (e.g. Xanterra) to supplying military needs (Aramark, Blackwater, etc.) makes things better or worse for a situation like this. It seems that the private companies are more apt and able to weather what is hopefully a temporary and infrequent hiccup like this, and the fact that these hiccups can happen is part of the price you pay for dealing with that otherwise lucrative client.
This is also showing up at the state and local levels, too, where places like the California State RR Museum and the RR Museum of Pa. have not only had to close during similar budget impasses, but cut back on other services and even basic functions. As I type, I'm dealing with a guy who, at one point, approached a noted state RR museum with a sizable and quite significant collection, only to be told that "due to budget cutbacks we can't accept donations at this time." He came to me looking for alternatives; I went back around to "the back door" of that museum and asked again, to be told "that situation's now over; what does he have again?"


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 9:03 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 2:02 am
Posts: 620
Location: Albany, Georgia
The SAM Shortline excursion train (http://www.samshortline.com) is having to revise its runs that take passengers from Plains, GA out to Archery, former President Jimmy Carter's boyhood home location, because that stop is totally on NPS property, part of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. The schedule for this Saturday's run was revised yesterday.

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 9:47 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8354
Location: Baltimore, MD
Randy Gustafson wrote:
Maybe not a huge surprise, but also the STB:
http://www.stb.dot.gov/stb/index.html
And considering how picky and procedural they are about time deadlines on all matters, that should become interesting.

And you can't tell about the NTSB, because they can't update their web page..
http://www.ntsb.gov/


I'm not going to reveal too many details about this lest it be discovered and acted upon, but at least a couple of the government-run websites I've checked and worked with have only put up "window dressing" barriers to access, about as effective as a stop sign at the Grand Canyon gate (when you can just walk or even drive around the gate) or the US-Mexican border "protection" in the rural stretches. If you have bookmarked certain databases or sub-sites at these websites, you can still gain full access.

Of course, what you can do once you're there is different. It's not like they can throw a tarp over the Grand Canyon to block your view, but they can eject you for "security" reasons, and there's no restrooms, cafeterias, shuttle buses, etc. Looking for approval of your brewery permit or a conclusion to that NTSB investigation? Sit back and wait. But if you need to search certain listings or databases, go to it, and even keep downloading away.....


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:28 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 974
Location: Back in NE Ohio
Randy Gustafson wrote:
I expected Steamtown, that's a pure NPS site, but this was a bit of a surprise - CVSR:

http://www.cvsr.com/how-the-federal-shu ... fects-cvsr


I'm not surprised. NPS owns the former B&O CT&V subdivision from Willow Jct. in Independence to the bridge over Howard St. in downtown Akron (Akron Metro RTA owns the rest of the line from there to Canton, including the track at Akron Northside station, even though the two parts of the line are divided at MP 40, a couple of hundred yards South [East] of there). However, the entire line is dispatched by the CVSR. The closures in CVNP are not complete, the park is built around functioning communities, like Peninsula, and numerous other county and regional parks. Riverview Rd., the main road through the park, is a pubic road serving those areas, and can't be completely closed. The main body of the canal trail and all support facilities for it are closed, as are all NPS-owned and operated facilities within the park.


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:43 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1604
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
I have yet to see anyone calculate what is being saved by not having to pay 850,000 their daily wages. It's my understanding that if the Republican house members prevail that this time the employees will not be given back pay as was done for the '95-'96 shutdown.

If that proves to be the case then the daily "savings" from not paying over 800,000 people must be huge??

Just wondering.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:26 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2005 2:46 am
Posts: 85
Location: Elko, NV
co614 wrote:
I have yet to see anyone calculate what is being saved by not having to pay 850,000 their daily wages. It's my understanding that if the Republican house members prevail that this time the employees will not be given back pay as was done for the '95-'96 shutdown.

If that proves to be the case then the daily "savings" from not paying over 800,000 people must be huge??

Just wondering.

Ross Rowland



On paper, it may look good. Dig a little deeper, it isn't.

I'm one of those 850,000 on furlough. First time in my adult life I've ever been without a job. It sucks, it hurts, and the pointlessness of the whole debacle makes it sting that much more.

The savings really aren't there. A good many of us are rolling right over onto unemployment benefits. While it is substantially less money, it's still being paid for by somebody. Another issue is all those contractors- by stopping their work, the government is technically breaking those contracts, and there is likely to be a whole lot of additional money the government ends up paying to those contractors for the government's default. And we haven't even talked about what happens to the contracted employees thrown out of work.

In the end, it actually costs the government far more money to shut down, idle operations, then re-start everything once the impasse is over, and that doesn't even count the opportunity costs- I know in my agency a large number of people spent an inordinate amount of time preparing for a potential shutdown instead of doing their jobs. Congress expects certain results for the money allocated to agencies. A lot of that work went undone over the last two or more weeks because people had to start implementing contingency plans.

Last point...what I see missing in all this discussion is what actually happens with government spending. The vast majority of it is recycled directly back into the economy. Because I don't have a paycheck, my spending has gone way down, which is going to hurt those from whom I usually purchase goods and services, which is also costing the state and local governments sales and other tax revenues. Multiply that across the furloughed Federal employees, add to that all the contracted employees and employees of contractors who are also not working, plus that the Federal government is no longer purchasing utilities, goods, and services associated with its various operations, and that's a significant amount of "consumer spending" that is NOT going back into the economy.

Jeff Moore
Elko, NV


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 4:02 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1604
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
You make very valid points Jeff and my sincere condolences go out to you and all the other folks caught up in this tug of war. It's certainly no way to run a railroad nor a nation.

I think it's also strongly obvious that somehow, someway we MUST get our federal deficit spending under control or there will come a day of reckoning that will make this shutdown look like a Sunday school picnic.

Where we're going to get the caliber of leadership needed to accomplish that is the scary question.

For all concerned let's hope the shutdown ends soon and we find a way to put our house into long term order!!

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2005 2:46 am
Posts: 85
Location: Elko, NV
co614 wrote:
You make very valid points Jeff and my sincere condolences go out to you and all the other folks caught up in this tug of war. It's certainly no way to run a railroad nor a nation.

I think it's also strongly obvious that somehow, someway we MUST get our federal deficit spending under control or there will come a day of reckoning that will make this shutdown look like a Sunday school picnic.

Where we're going to get the caliber of leadership needed to accomplish that is the scary question.

For all concerned let's hope the shutdown ends soon and we find a way to put our house into long term order!!

Ross Rowland


I couldn't agree with you more, Ross...we do have major problems in this country, and as long as our political "leaders" continue to confine themselves to the far extremes of their respective parties I see little hope of any major and needed changes. We have created a government far more concerned with protecting strongly vested interests than really looking out for the people's interests. I do find it encouraging that the standoff has started to bring moderates from both parties out of the woodwork, and over the last couple days I've been hearing some voices that up until now have been nearly absent from our political discourse. I hope we start hearing more of them.

We who derive our livelihood working for the Federal government are easy targets for pundits and many others, and I'll be honest by saying a lot of the common myths about us as a group are simply not true. Almost everyone I work with clocks far more hours than we get paid for. I see nothing but a very high level of professionalism in my agency. Yes, there are some bad apples, but contrary to common myths there are ways to deal with them, and I have seen people fired for screwing up. The vast majority of us have at least bachelor degrees, if not masters of p.h.d. degrees, and have highly specialized education and skills mostly unique to the jobs we do. We remember for whom we work.

A lot of the frustrations aimed at us as a group would be better directed at the overall Federal process. Congress has written many laws through the years, and just like railroad safety rules there are very serious reasons why most of them were passed, and many of the solutions the laws prescribe go way beyond the problems they were intend to solve. Believe me. we who have to navigate through these laws and resulting regulations are often as frustrated by them as everyone else. We don't get to pick and choose what laws we want to follow and those we feel like ignoring, and I'd argue that one of the great strengths of our democracy is the ability for citizen oversight of what we do. One of the easiest ways a government agency has to get into trouble is to start ignoring various laws and policies, and there is no real end to the list of special interest groups constantly looking over our shoulders and calling us to task.

All that being said, in the grander scheme of things the government could lay off all 2 million or so of us civilian employees tomorrow and STILL have an astounding budget deficit. For all the beatings we take, we are not materially driving the on-gong deficits and other budget problems. The vast majority of us work in what is lumped together as "discretionary spending" that currently represents something like 25% of the money spent by the Federal government. All of us who are furloughed work in programs included in this "discretionary spending". This means that this shutdown isn't slowing down or affecting at all the vast majority of Federal spending...the fact that this shutdown has not caused the date the government reaches the debt ceiling to be pushed back at all reinforces this better than anything else I can say. We do need to address Federal spending sooner than later...but we need to have the leadership capable of taking on and solving the real causes of our budget problems instead of always going after the easy targets and getting minimal progress or returns on those efforts.

Jeff Moore
Elko, NV


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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:48 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1885
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Reinforce what JDLX says.

If the services and labor we lose during the shutdown really "saved" a lot of money, the Federal debt would stop growing.

But it is not. It is still growing, because your local Federal employee is not such a big part of the spend.

The government is just like any business enterprise. How much money would you "save" if you just announced tomorrow that the business was going to close for a week, and everyone should pack the boxes, lock the doors, put anti freeze in the toilets, and go home?

Of course if you don't believe the government produces any useful services, then the shutdown is not a loss. I don't support that argument.

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5254
Location: southeastern USA
Government certainly provides many services, some of great value; congress alone doesn't seem to do as much for us.

dave

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:01 pm 
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Posts: 1903
Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
We now take you to today's performance of, "Big picture theater," already in progress...

Public: Get together and figure this out!
One side of the aisle: I'm not yielding a bit, don't care how long this takes, the other guy will blick eventually.
Other side of the aisle: I'm not yielding a bit either, I also don't care how long this takes, the other guy will blick eventually.

It's so easy to blame it all on one side of the other (of course, it's usually the side you normally don't agree with, for some odd reason). That's the simplistic way to see it. People are always saying how government should just 'do what's best for the country' as if that was always just one thing. The problem with situations like this is that there are several 'America' viewpoints to see, and there's rarely (if ever) one of them that's totally wrong. We have currently several diamettrically opposed viewpoints on how to fix big government, none of them are totally wrong, and it's downright foolish to think that only one side is responsible for this mess.
When you consider how people buy into cheap sound bites to form an opinion on politics, you're left realizing that the founding fathers were smarter than we gave them credit for in many regards. I simply wouldn't trust the American people, with their infinite views and demands, to make any decisions. People rant about Congress being so messed up and how we should throw them all out, that only proves how simplistic the public sees these things, we'd only trade one group of people we don't like for another, into infinity...

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:46 pm 
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Political discourse is not a function for the Interchange. Moved this topic to railfanning where, essentially, almost anything goes.

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:52 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
There's another website I frequent where, when a discussion gets too far into "politics in general" and too far from "politics as it affects railroading", the thread will get shut down, or placed on "private reply only". As the son of a postal clerk and an elementary school teacher, I have a lot of respect for "government employees" who are down on the front lines, performing useful and even vital tasks. I have less respect for "bureaucrats" whose main jobs seem to be generating busy work and building "empires".

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 Post subject: Re: Shutdown impacts
PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:30 am 
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Friends who work for Federal agencies tell me the shutdown for them actually began about two months ago when the processing of their travel expense reports slowed down. At the time of the shutdown, some of them were owed thousands of dollars of travel expense that had been legitimately incurred in the course of their job responsibilities. Not a word about this in our national media though, which is preoccupied with frightening the elderly with claims that Social Security checks might not be sent out.

Projecting the numbers from the national debt clock through the end of 2013, the US government finances are as if you earned $36,000 this year, but were spending $47,000 this year, and had already accumulated debts of $175,000. That would be fairly close to the 2013 year end numbers with the same number of digits removed from the right side of each of them. During 2012, the deficit alone was 7% of our total gross domestic product.

If your personal finances looked like that, you would be bankrupt. It would be impossible to dig your way out without reducing your spending or finding additional sources of revenue. But the government has a big credit card, and some folks think the solution is to allow our politicians an even larger credit limit.

The US financial mess is likely to end very badly.

PC

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