The Government Shutdown

By Lulu Sun


Warning: this article is definitely not 100% impartial and fair, but I do try my best.

We were about to hit the debt ceiling once again, and so the House had to begin cranking out more funding proposals to avoid a governmental shutdown. The Republicans have been dead-set on getting rid of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), passing three proposals that each included a provision delaying its enforcement. Despite their efforts, the deadline for a compromise within Congress was not met, as the Senate has rejected all three proposals, and now the government has shut down.

Republicans have been challenging the Democrat-controlled Senate to “be responsible”, and to represent the American people, claiming that most citizens do not actually want or need the benefits provided by Obamacare. Senator John McCain brings up an interesting point on this statement: “I campaigned in 2012 all over this country for months: ‘Repeal and replace Obamacare.’ That was not the mandate of the voters—if they wanted to repeal Obamacare, the 2012 election would have been probably significantly different.”

To be fair, Obamacare will cost the government billions upon billions upon billions upon billions (ok you get the point) of tax revenue. If Obamacare didn’t exist, we’d have quite a large sum of money to use for other purposes, such as funding the military (just kidding). Obama hasn’t missed a beat- he throws the blame right back at the Republican Party. He states that the entire shutdown situation would be “entirely preventable” if the Republicans would just cooperate, saying that “the idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility.” The President continues, “One faction of one party in one house of congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government. You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid isn’t cutting House Speaker John Boehner any slack either, declaring that “the responsibility for this Republican government shutdown will rest squarely on his shoulders.” Obama and Boehner have had several verbal showdowns over the phone, but neither is backing down. Several Republicans, including Representative Shelly Moore Capito, have been asking Boehner to give it up and to start looking for a compromise with the Democrats.

Who do we blame for the government shutdown? A recent poll shows that more than 63% of Americans disapprove of the GOP’s actions. According to another poll, 69% of Americans compared Republicans to “spoiled children.”  58% and 47% labeled the Democrats and Obama as such, respectively. In terms of responsibility, 49% of Americans perceive Obama as being a “responsible adult” and 25% and 35% think that Republicans and Democrats are acting like “responsible adults,” respectively. Doesn’t it feel great knowing that we have a lot of responsible adults running our nation?

What happens during a government shutdown? It is the government’s job, as outlined in the Constitution, to protect human life and property. Therefore, anything pertaining to security and protection of health will still be in operation during the shutdown. Essentials to preserving the national financial system will stay around, such as tax collecting and bond issuing. National parks, however, will be closed, including most federal government offices, programs, and museums (ironically, October 1st is Yosemite’s 123rd anniversary, how about that?). Non-essential federal workers will be sent home on unpaid leave—this time, nearly 800,000 federal workers will be excused from work. In addition, the hearings scheduled for October 2nd for the Washington Navy Yard shootings would have to be postponed until Congress figures out how to get our nation back on track.

How much will a government shutdown hurt our economy? Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf has an answer: “The effects build over time: Two weeks is worse than one week, and three weeks is still worse than two weeks, and four is still worse than that.” Luckily, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody’s Analytics, has a much clearer answer. He estimates that a shutdown of only a few days’ length would probably only cost the economy 0.2% of annual GDP growth, but a three-four week long shutdown “would do significant economic damage”, or a 1.4% loss. Although there was a four-week long shutdown in 1995, Zandi claims that because October 1st is the start of a new fiscal quarter (as opposed to the 1995 shutdown, which was during the second half of the quarter) and because today’s economy is still fragile, the impact of a four-week long shutdown would have much greater impacts on the economy. Senior Republicans have speculated the shutdown to last at least a week, but Congress only has until October 17th to figure things out, as the Treasury Department would be running out of money by that time.

So far, the Affordable Care Act is still “moving forward” and “cannot be stopped,” despite the government shutdown. Without a consensus within Congress, Obamacare will just keep on rolling. With little more than two weeks left until we smash headfirst into a national default, what will the Republicans do? Who will make the first step toward compromise?