In the hours before the United States faces a government shutdown, many people wonder what that will mean for individuals in this country. A government shutdown is defined as a situation in which the government stops providing all but essential services. This does not include our emergency responders, National Weather Service, postal service, armed forces or air traffic control. Also, groups that do not require government appropriations, like Medicare and Social Security, will continue to stay open. What this does mean, however, is that many federal employees will be furloughed or not paid on time. It is estimated that some 800,000 federal civilian workers will be furloughed for the length of the impending shutdown; this does not include any of the players in Congress, however. They are protected.
Any other federal agencies that will be closed during a government shutdown are not known until the Office of Management and Budget reviews and determines the course. In the past, passport offices, national parks, museums, and Washington D.C. Municipal District were shut down, the latter causing the public schools and many utilities to be closed.
Since 1976, the United States Government has been shutdown 17 times, the longest consecutive days was September 30 to October 18, 1978, when it stayed closed for 18 days. Based on the statistics, however, if the government does close, it is estimated to be very short-lived. Congress has the task of raising the debt ceiling so that this country can thrive. This task has been done since 1917 with a mere 17 closures, so it shouldn’t really be such a daunting task.
Any closure longer than a couple of days may have a serious negative impact on the economy. President Barack Obama spoke last week about the harm for federal employees who will be directly affected, saying “They would be hurt gravely and as a consequence, all of us would be hurt gravely should the Congress choose to shut the people’s government down. A shutdown will have a very real impact on real people right away.” Warning the American people repeatedly this week, President Obama has all but knelt on bended knee, begging for Congress to do their jobs. As we watch, hopeful for a miracle but preparing for the worst, this country tears itself down the middle. Fingers are pointed, blame is being laid, and each person dutifully hopes for resolve, we wait for midnight.
With hours to spare before this fear becomes a reality, the ball has seemingly been left in the court of the GOP. Unwilling to budge, and dead set on defunding The Affordable Care Act instead of reestablishing a debt ceiling, the Tea Party Republicans have let this country know where their priorities lie. What a government shutdown means to the average American is more than a monetary furlough, and more than a few days of worry. What a government shutdown means to we, the people, is that Congress has a priorities problem. From this angle, it seems the House is full of hot air, egos, and an attack on the American People.
By: Amy Magness Whatley
History of Shutdowns