The prospect of a government shutdown is the kind of news story that is hard for regional and local papers to cover. On Wednesday, as the likelihood of a federal shutdown seemed to be growing, at least early in the day, two papers managed to grab hold of the subject — one more successfully than the other.
Part of the challenge is that it's the kind of story that is constantly evolving (train wreck ahead! we're making progress — finally! so little time, so much to do!) and the reliable sources are in a tight circle with barely time to talk to the national papers, wire services, and TV shows. Editors have to rely largely on wire service reports.
The Seattle Times, however, took a reasonable shot at its own news contribution. The paper, which still (to its credit) maintains a D.C. bureau, gave big play in its print edition to a story by its Washington correspondent, Kyung M. Song, "How a shutdown would affect you." The piece wasn't particularly localized, but it provided a decent rundown of some basics (the vast majority of 50,000 federal workers in the state likely to be laid off, but air controllers and other critical employees would stay on the job).
A bit better approach, though decidedly different, was on The Oregonian's editorial page, which largely used the the shutdown prospect as a way into urging a bigger conversation around Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposals. I liked that the editorial board tried to point a way toward major compromises, whatever "squabbles" (or short-term compromises) may occur in the run-up to the Friday deadline on a shutdown. And the editorial board did so while being true to its own concerns about the poor and their safety net.
We agree, however, that the economic fortunes of individuals and businesses will find improvement with lower taxes. But bringing domestic spending levels down to 2008 levels by freezing growth in education and transportation looks downright counterproductive to our competitive interests here and abroad.
Ryan's plan goes into committee discussion today. It's more substantive than squabbles over a looming government shutdown. In establishing the real distance between Republican aspirations and those of Obama and many Democrats, Ryan's plan, despite facing sure defeat in the Senate, is a powerful lever that can help prod consensus from a Congress trying to decide what America stands for.
In Eugene, The Register-Guard also editorialized on Ryan's Medicare and Medicaid proposals (without any reference to the shutdown possibility). The Eugene paper said the Ryan plan would only be necessary if the country can't come up with a better way to control costs without inflicting major pain on the public. The editorial board argued:
Health care costs can be controlled. One way is to provide more health care, not less, through preventive care or by treating conditions in their early stages. That’s one of the aims of the Affordable Health Act approved last year, which would expand insurance coverage. Ryan, however, proposes repealing the act, a move the Congressional Budget Office says would add to the deficit.
Speaking of budgets, the Washington state legislature is coming to its own deadlines for completing its regular session, as discussed in a blog post on Wednesday (April 6). Since then, The Seattle Times has held a live online chat with state Rep. Ross Hunter, the architect of the House Democrats' budget plan. Hunter and participants managed to cover quite a bit of ground, which is captured in the full transcript.
Seattle Times, "How a shutdown would affect you."
The Oregonian editorial, "This GOP spending plan should prod real compromise."
The Register-Guard editorial, "A fork in health care road: Ryan proposes shifting costs to beneficiaries."
Seattle Times, "Live Q&A: Rep. Ross Hunter on proposed state budget."