House Republicans have pushed a budget plan that will, if implemented, delay Obamacare for a year and repeal its tax on medical devices. This has drastically increased the chances of a government shutdown on Oct. 1, because Senate Democrats have declared that they will reject the plan. By now they probably already have.
The words “government shutdown” sound like something out of bad dystopian fiction to cause hysteria. But don’t panic. For one, the government has shutdown before. In late 1995 and early 1996, the United States government closed as a result of conflicts between President Bill Clinton and Congress over funding for various programs including Medicare and education. The total cost to the government was $1.4 billion.
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, the government does not actually “shutdown” during a shutdown. Surprising, I know, but the lights do not go out in the White House. We still have basic governmental functions. Our esteemed decision-makers still meet.
What a government shutdown does do is eliminate what the White House budget committee deems to be “non-essential personnel and functions” in order to save money. Non-essentials are anything that does not directly aid in the protection of human life, liberty or property. Historically this has included, but is not limited to, services such as air traffic control, disposal of hazardous waste, maintenance of the power grid, and disaster assistance. However, the military – despite being a critical service that protects human life – will no longer be paid in anything but IOUs. All 368 National Parks will close to visitors, the government will be unable to issue loans of any kind, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country will be furloughed without pay. Congress and the President are naturally exempt. The shutdown could be prevented if the government passes a short-term funding bill before Tuesday. However, the nation is also poised to reach the debt ceiling in mid-October, which makes the need for final decisions that much more urgent.
While a possible shutdown is worthy of concern, it only disguises the real issue: that our system of partisan politics has become a threat to itself.
Perhaps what we should really focus on is the continued inability of American policymakers to ignore ideological biases for the good of the people. The role of a politician is one of continual service and sacrifice for the sake of leading citizens to prosperity and truth. If the Democrats and Republicans in Washington cannot put their common goal – to protect the life, liberty, and property of the American people – before party biases, then the government shutdown really is the least of our problems.