Understanding the government shutdown
Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
Oct. 3, 2013
Last week, on Oct. 1, the government shut down. This was the first government shutdown in the U.S. in 17 years.
Every year, the Senate must pass 12 funding bills, these bills fund federal agencies and set the budget limit. If the senate cannot reach an agreement, the government “shuts down.”
On Friday, Sept. 23, the House of Representatives submitted a bill regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, that would defund or delay the bill for a year. On Sept. 24, freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruz, gave a 21-hour speech apposing the Obamacare.
By Sept. 29, the Senate had sent the bill back to the House of Representatives. The House drafted a new bill, which the Senate again refused to pass since neither party could develop a compromise bill before Sept. 30. The government runs on a fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. Congress has to pass bills that fund the government before the beginning of each fiscal year.
Obviously, this didn’t happen.
But does the government literally shut down? No, not really.
Members of the military will still be paid, foreign embassies will still be operating, social security checks will still be paid out and air traffic control will stay open. This is because these programs are funded through mandatory spending.
The President’s $400,000 and Congress members’ paychecks are also a part of mandatory spending. The 27th amendment also prevents members of Congress from voting on it’s own salaries.
However, programs and departments such as the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have closed. The Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, which allows employers to check a person’s immigration status, and the paychecks of 97 percent of NASA’s employees are all dependent on funding that the Senate approves each year, according to the Washington Post.
The House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan bill on Oct. 6 that would provide back pay for furloughed employees, or employees who must take temporarily unpaid leave, according to the Washington Post.
The next question might be, who benefits from this shutdown and the answer is, no one.
The shutdown occurred after an effort to delay the Affordable Health Care Act–despite the fact that the law is funded by new taxes and from money left over from cuts to Medicare, which also still functions despite the shutdown, according to CNN.
In terms of the economy, if the shutdown lasts only a few days, the economic effects will be small. However, if the shutdown lasts for more than three or four weeks, it would have a large affect on the economy, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody’s Analytics in a CNN Money article.
But most importantly, we won’t get anywhere if we’re looking for someone to blame.
For the following days, and weeks, we need to find ways to fix this issue. Ultimately, the most important lesson from this shutdown is that the decision to act, or rather to not act, effects millions of people–most of whom will have no understanding of the bickering politicians in Washington.