What government shutdown means for us
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 23:09
There is quite the ruckus being made about the potential government shutdown today. The issue is contentious and features tough rhetoric from both the left and the right. The situation is very fluid and changes rapidly––sometimes by the hour. The rapidity of the situation makes it that much easier to remove it from the realm of comprehension. It is not a matter of who “wins” the shutdown battle or gets the upper hand. Rather, the real question is, what actually happens during a government shutdown and how do we take an abstract concept and apply its effects to ordinary people?
The federal government has shut down 17 times since 1976, with the average shutdown lasting roughly six and a half days. The longest––and also the most recent shutdown––lasted 21 days in 1995 and 1996. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients will be unaffected by the shut down since these are mandatory programs. Also, contrary to popular belief, letters to and from Grandma will still be sent, as the Postal Service is unaffected by the shutdown.
Now, there are many areas of the government that, if shutdown, will affect the average citizen. First off, the IRS cannot conduct audits during a shutdown (good for those engaging in less-than-legal tax activities), but the IRS also cannot assist taxpayers during this time.
In addition to the closing of national parks and museums, workers will be furloughed without any guarantee that they will receive lost wages. Civilian Department of Defense workers would be furloughed along with other nonessential personnel for the duration of the shutdown, which could be up to 400,000 people. That is in addition to Defense furloughs from the sequester. Those seeking passports or visas will be slowed even further than they already are if a shutdown happens.
Citizens in Washington, D.C. will be deprived of many municipal services since the city is funded, in part, by the federal government. The Department of Motor Vehicles would be shut down and garbage collection would not occur. However, the city can use a contingency cash reserve to help fund the city services. It is an unfair burden placed on citizens who are already lacking an equal say in the federal government.
Here is the real kicker––soldiers will not be paid during the shutdown, yet Congressmen will still receive their salaries without loss or delay of pay.
Military families would also stop receiving death benefits temporarily, causing even greater burdens on the families. The disparity between those fighting life and death battles and those posturing and “fighting” budget battles is farcical.
A recent CBS poll showed that 44 percent of people would blame the Republicans if the government shuts down, compared to 35 percent who say Democrats and the President are to blame. The problem stems from intense partisan zeal. Our representatives––on both sides of the aisle––need to take a step back, put the pin back in the grenade and act rationally to solve this problem. There is a time for politicking and posturing, but it should not now, nor ever, occur at the expense of the American public.