When the Government Shuts Down…

When the Government Shuts Down…

How we got here, what happens now, and what we are going to do next

Is the government still shut down? Check here for updates: http://istheusgovernmentshutdown.com/

At 12:00 a.m. on October 1st, the United States Congress shut down after failing to pass a budget.  Over the past several years, similar crises have ended in 11th hour agreements to essentially postpone the problem. This time no agreement was made,  resulting in the first official shut down since the mid-90s.  For most college students, this is the first shut down within our memories, leading many to question the causes and implications of such a seemingly drastic move.

The first important part of this shutdown to understand is how we got here.  The shutdown was caused by two related and complex issues in our government: the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as ObamaCare) and the “Tea Party.”

ObamaCare has been a contentious issue from its first inception; opponents in the Republican Party have struggled in every way possible to prevent its going into practice.  There are several pros and cons of ObamaCare.  On the one hand, it increases health coverage for a great number of Americans and helps young adults by allowing them to stay on their parents’ coverage longer.  We would also cease to be one of the only industrialized countries that do not provide health insurance for its citizens.  On the other hand, it will in many ways increase the cost of health insurance for both the individual and the government, intrudes into American’s personal decisions, and is funded controversially.  There is also some fear of the effects that this will have on small businesses that are required to provide insurance and the job market as a whole.

The second factor at play in this instance is the “Tea Party.”  Dr. Mathew Kerbel, political science professor at Villanovauses quotations marks to distinguish the movement from a formal political party.  The “Tea Party” is a reactionary facet within the Republican Party that is currently pulling the party further to the extreme right.  They are unlikely to work towards compromise with any other party; indeed, they have no reason to.

“They are behaving rationally, even if shutting down the government appears irrational to others,” Dr Kerbel explained.

Because of their voting bases, the “Tea Party” congressmen have very little to lose by their actions.  Instead, their refusal to compromise on an unpopular piece of legislation will bolster their home support.  However, their particular rationality does not make it the right action for the government.  As Dr. John Johannes succinctly phrased it, their actions are “stupid and irresponsible.”

The “Tea Party” has been fighting the Affordable Care Act in every possible manner.  However, every traditional way of fighting the bill (including questioning its constitutionality in the Supreme Court and centering a presidential election on this issue) have already been exhausted.  Typically, this would settle the issue.  Dr. Johannes argues that it is through only through these regular legislative strategies that the bill can or should be adapted.  For those of us who would like a refresher in how a bill becomes a law, here’s a good throwback for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyeJ55o3El0.  In this instance, however, it is in the benefit of the “Tea Party” to raise the stakes.

Now that the government has shut down, what does that mean? This is one of the more complicated and important parts of the issue.  The principle component to understand is that, at this point, there will be very few drastic consequences of the shutdown.  Most likely, an agreement will quickly be reached and most problems can be avoided.  However, the last governmental shutdown did cost the country billions of dollars and we can expect a similar effect with the current shutdown (In the 1990s, this also happened: http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/the-crazy-thing-that-happened-last-time-the-government-shut).

Because of the government shutdown, the following are currently closed or slowed:

  • NASA (with the exception of those in Mission Control assisting astronauts in the International Space Station)
  • All National Parks
  • Many government websites (including whitehouse.gov)
  • Federal meals for the children and the elderly
  • Veteran assistance and compensation
  • New clinical trials in National Institutes of Health
  • Essential personnel for the safety of Americans will work without pay

All of this will continue to remain closed and will not function until a budget is passed and Congress reopens the government.  Interestingly, Congress is exempt from these closures.

Finally, where is Congress going to go from here? When will the shutdown end? Who will cave first?  According to most, it is unlikely that this shutdown will last more than a few days.  Eventually, the house Republicans (particularly those who are more moderate) will most likely align themselves with the Democrats in the interest of maintaining a functioning government.  Only time will tell the true impacts of this shutdown.

However, in less than two weeks Congress will need to reach another big decision: the debt ceiling.  This is a much more serious problem that could have more frightening repercussions.  It is vital that Congress learns how to compromise and handle warring factions before this ceiling is hit.

 

Still confused? Let the world’s experts explain it to you:

Ferris Bueller: http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/ferris-bueller-explains-the-government-shutdown

Regina George: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/the-government-shutdown-is-basically-exactly-like-mean-girls

And your roommates: http://www.collegehumor.com/article/6889842/if-congress-got-stuff-done-like-roommates

By Maggie Lamb ’16

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