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How Would A Govt. Shutdown Affect San Diego?

Audio

Aired 4/8/11

If anyplace is affected by a government shutdown, it should be San Diego County, with its 50,000 government workers and about 100,000 military personnel and their families as well as hundreds who work for defense contractors.

ALISON ST. JOHN: San Diego County has about 50,000 government workers and about 100,000 military personnel and their families as well as hundreds who work for defense contractors. We look at how a shutdown will affect us and why we got to this point.

GUESTS: Kent Davy, editor, North County Times

Andrew Donohue, editor, VoiceofSanDiego.org

Ricky Young, watchdog editor, San Diego Union-Tribune

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ST. JOHN: You're at the Editors Roundtable here on KPBS. Good morning, I'm Alison St. John. Thanks for joining us. Well, you thought the state budget deadlock was bad, now the federal government is on the verge of shutting down. Is political deadlock the name of the game for the foreseeable future? San Diego City leaders have reached a compromise on a pension reform plan to send to voter, though it won't help this year's budget, in fact it might hurt. And a new watch dog study says our water bills don't do enough to reward people who save water or to punish people who waste it. We'll talk about all this with the editors at the round table today, who are Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times. Thanks for coming in, Kent.

DAVY: Thanks for having me.

ST. JOHN: Ricky Young, editor of the San Diego UT.

YOUNG: Good morning, Allison. Great to be here.

ST. JOHN: And Andrew Donohue, editor of voiceofsandiego.org.

YOUNG: Always a joy to see you, Allison.

ST. JOHN: [CHECK] or you can join us on line at KPBS.org back/Editors Roundtable and send us a comment. So Republican lawmakers at this hour are apparently hunk erred down in a basement in Washington, and we still don't have an agreement on a federal budget. So a shut down does loom. San Diego has about 50000 civilians on the federal payroll, and more than a hundred thousand active duty personnel and their families, not to mention defense contractors. If anyone is going to feel a shut down of the federal government, it should be us. So Kent, you know, why is San Diego particularly vulnerable? Who's gonna feel it?

DAVY: Well, the the shut down -- first of all, this is kabuki theatre at Washington's finest. The Republicans are busy eating pizza and talking to John Boehner as you suggested in the basement of the capital, and the clock is clicking to a midnight shut down. San Diego is vulnerable to the extent that those federal workers who would be furloughed are nonessential federal workers, so that means people who run park, you know, the lighthouse down at Cabrillo and presumably the little visitors' center there would be shut down, but not the [CHECK]. The FAA will continue to watch airplanes because that's essential, but people at the Cleveland national forest will probably get an unpaid vacation.

ST. JOHN: The border remains out down south. But you're up north in Camp Pendleton. Aren't there some families up there that might feel some effects?

DAVY: There might be some. Of the chief effect for military families I'm told, active duty families, is that they may see their paycheck sequence altered and get paid for just a single week, as opposed to their normal pay schedule. VA will continue to operate, although there will be some services curtailed in that. The post office will continue to operate. That's why, to some extent, the discussion of this being a shut down is a little bit of hyperbole all by itself.

ST. JOHN: I wonder what the people who are active duty, out in Afghanistan, are feeling to hear that they might only get one week's paycheck instead of two.

DAVY: Well, I'm sure they're not happy. But it's the proposal that the baner and the Republicans have put forward had an interesting wrinkle to it. With their cuts, was -- that they wanted, was included the one week of continuing funding, plus the defense bill or department bill for the rest of the year. So it creates an interesting political dilemma for the president, I suspect.

ST. JOHN: Well, but there was some -- there was some codas to that particular --

DAVY: Oh, sure. There were writers. Apparently what they're hung up on now is the Republicans are pressing stripping funding from planned parenthood, because of the abortion issue out of it, and the Democrats are saying, no, no, we don't want to meswith social issues.

ST. JOHN: So Republicans got a black eye for being blamed for the last shut down 15 years ago. Do you think we'll see history repeat itself here?

DAVY: I don't know. Maybe not. One, I'm not sure that Obama and harry reed are nearly as savvy politically as bill Clinton was in being able to make sure the finger of blame is pointed in the right direction. The public poling that I saw yesterday in press accounts looked like blame was being currently evenly split. I think it will depend a lot on [CHECK].

ST. JOHN: Put out the call. What do you think about the looming federal shut down? Is it justified? Will it affect you? 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call U. Andrew, what's your sense about -- is it gonna be a blame game here? Who do you think is gonna -- is gonna suffer politically for this?

YOUNG: Well, yeah, I think -- like Kent said, it's a little early to see, though it does seem like everybody is ready to sort of spread that blame around. But it comes down to who can come out of these meetings now and actually sell this best to their constituency, and I think that's basically what Boehner is dealing with right nu. He's basically gotten the cuts from the Democrats that he asked for, but he hasn't got what the tea party constituency wants. So he's gotta try to [CHECK] but having something that he can sell to the tea party, which sort of speaks to the inner struggle that's happening within the GOP between perhaps the more standard GOP and the tea partiers.

ST. JOHN: Kent?

DAVY: You've got a whole bunch of new Republicans who were swept in on a more ideological basis than anything else, and maybe aren't used to the idea that they have to compromise. That's a problem for him.

ST. JOHN: So [CHECK] do you think there are a lot of people in North County who actually wouldn't mind seeing the government shut down?

DAVY: Oh, I'm sure there are a few who think it would be great swell fun. But I'm not sure that most people would like to see this happen, I don't think so.

ST. JOHN: I mean, there is an implication in terms of the U.S.s credibility over seas. I mean, Ricky, what do you think about the fact that I understand -- it could mean that other countries doubt the creditworthiness of the U.S., and that would affect trade, and that affects people in San Diego, right?

DONOHUE: Yeah. I think that's a long-term trend in the chipping away at America's standing there. What's been mentioned here several times is the quote unquote blame for the shut down. I think when you look at the mood of the electorate, I think the big story in the last election was the ascendance of the tea party, and I think there's -- as Kent briefly mentioned, probably a constituency this that wouldn't mind a government shut down or at the very least wants to see the Republicans pushing as hard as possible for certain cuts or more cuts, or whatever. And so this may well accrue to their benefit more so certainly than it did in 95.

ST. JOHN: Kent?

DAVY: Another little wrinkle that on this that I think's worth mentioning is [CHECK] been able to say, well, GOP, where's your plan? Where's your plan? Well, this is spending for this fiscal year. And account in, Paul Ryan came forward with a fairly dramatic [CHECK] sweeping changes to Medicare and some other things that at least his staff touted as being able to split, I think it was $5 trillion out of federal spending over a decade or so. See there's a bunch of moving parts on this. I think it's more complicated than 9495.

DONOHUE: And that's a good point. It may not be so much about this year, I think what they're actually battles over is peanuts, and they very well could come to an agreement while we're talking on this show. But they're feeling each other out right now, and feeling the public out, to see how far both parties can go, [CHECK] massive battle over those trillions of dollars in future years. So this might be a little bit more of a warm up to what becomes ultimately a much, much larger battle.

ST. JOHN: Now, you're -- you're making the point that perhaps a lot of people woven notice it, but we spoke to some people yesterday in the defense contractors who say that, yes, the smaller defense contractor, and of course San Diego is full of smaller defense contractor, could see payments seriously affected of it's not gonna be good for them.

YOUNG: Even the larger ones with a lot at stake. Not just with this that would affect general dynamics and others. So there could be some real impact. I would say the broader impact would be from, you know, what comes out of the budget deal as opposed to just the immediate issue of the shut town.

ST. JOHN: Okay. Let's take a call from Diane from Poway. Thanks for calling us, Diane. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. I wanted to talk about planned parenthood, but I would like to also mention that the shut down of the federal government hurts the entire country. Internationally, we look foolish, we cannot have a consensus. I'm really concerned about the tea party agenda where they are interested in these cuts to social program, but completely disinterested in the taxes and the tax breaks for the wealthy that they passed out earlier. They seem to have their priorities skewed to the one percent that Joseph Stiegbuts was writing about in the recent vanity fair article, and then when it comes down to this issue of planned parenthood and abortion, this assault on women's rights and on the right to abortion which is guaranteed by row V. Reed, seems to be utterly ridiculous and so ideological, and so silly, when it consider that that type of funding doesn't do anything with regards to reducing the budget. [CHECK] how sincere are they regarding what they see as a deficit when they were willing to pass out tax cuts for the wealthiest? And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.

ST. JOHN: Diane, excellent question. Ricky, do you want to say anything about that?

YOUNG: I just wanted to say, I think it's hard to [CHECK] and I think a fair number of them are just as mad about, you know, corporate giveaways and corporate welfare, and this sort of -- you you know, the bailouts, and that seems to be making people motivated in the tea party as much as, you know, social services or social issues, at least from what I've seen.

ST. JOHN: Okay. But it does sound like, even if the poles are suggesting that blame is being spread evenly, it does seem like it is coming down to this issue, and tea partiers are the ones that are, as you say, don't even seem to care if the country shuts down. Don't you think this is gonna result in some kind of negative political fall out for them? Andrew?

DONOHUE: I think it actually depends on what becomes of all this. If everything averted and we go back to a normal, quote unquote, normal federal government tomorrow, then I don't think so. But it is becoming clear that this whole debate has -- is very much tinged with ideology and not necessarily about just closing a budget when the clear issues are the sticking points are the planned parenthood funding getting specific environmental limitations raised off of specific industries, going after the healthcare reform, these sort of things of it's very much a partisan ideological battle sort of shrouded in this budget.

ST. JOHN: Let's take one more call quickly from the break. Lori from Clairemont is on the line. Lori, thanks for joining the editors. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, [CHECK] this is the Californication of the national budget. [CHECK] the Republicans would hold hostage all the healthcare, social service, other funds and gutted them by tens of billions of dollars, Kevin McArthy is now -- you'll see him in every picture directly behind the speaker. He is coaching Boehner at how to do at the U.S. level, what Republicans successfully did at the state level.

ST. JOHN: And of course that's Lori Saldaña. Thanks, Lori, any comments about that, Kent?

DAVY: Just one thing. Something that Ricky said brings to mind, if I try and think back about the tea party discussions last year, abortion was not front and center to those discussions. It had much more to do with unhappiness over the massive wall street bailout about federal deficit, general kind of malaise and dissatisfaction with government. And I don't recall abortion being a principle part of that discussion. So this is kind of a new element that I think has cropped up in this week in this particular discussion on capital hill.

YOUNG: I think that's coming from more traditional Republican quarters and a little opportunism here using the engagement of the tea party to get something they've wanted a long time.

ST. JOHN: Okay, good. Well, gentlemen, thanks for shedding on some light on that. [CHECK] something where there has been a bit of a compromise, and that's, so far, on pension reform.

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