In which the author tries to explain the government shutdown to his 9-year old son.
Alex: (having overheard a conversation between my wife and I) What's a furlough?
Me: It's when the government shuts down.
Alex: How does that work?
Me: All of the non-critical government employees essentially stop working and go home.
Alex: Are you non-critical?
Me: Um, yeah.
Alex: So you're not working?
Me: Not right now, no.
Alex: Are you getting paid?
Me: No, but we'll be fine.
Alex: Oh, I'm not worried. We're rich.
Me: We are?
Alex: Why did the government shut down?
Me: It's complicated.
Alex stares at me. He will do this for hours until I answer.
Me: It shut down because the Republicans and the-
Alex: Who are the Republicans?
Me: They're a political party.
Alex: A political party?
Me: Yeah. So the President and Senators and all the people that run the country belong to a different political party.
Alex: Like a religion.
Me: Yeah, but without the morals.
Me: Nothing. So the different political parties can't agree on how much the government gets to spend for the next year. It's called a budget.
Alex: Like what mom puts you on?
Me: Yes, but instead of complaining about me spending $2 on a Mountain Dew everyday, they're unhappy about billions being spent on free health care.
Alex: What's health care got to do with it?
Me: Nothing. It doesn't have anything to do with it.
Alex: So why is health care included?
Me: That's complicated.
Alex gives the forever stare.
Me: Alright, let's say you got an allowance because you actually did something around the house.
Alex: Ha, ha.
Me: And let's say every week you had a list of chores you have to do in order to get your allowance.
Me: And you do all the chores expecting to get your money, but then mommy says you can have your allowance this week, but you're never going to get a puppy.
Wife: Why am I the one denying our child a puppy? You're the one who--
Me: I'm teaching here. Shush. So what would you say? Would you take the allowance knowing you will never, ever get a dog?
Alex: No. Or I'd ask grandpa for one.
Me: Congress doesn't have a grandpa.
Alex: What about Uncle Sam?
Me: I think you're losing track of this--
Alex: Are we done?
Me: Yes, but do you--
Alex: Can I play the Wii?
Me: As long as we still have power.
Me: Nothing, have fun. I'll be in the bathroom if you need me.