At the moment, the 2013 Government Shutdown has taken over headlines and will likely dominate until the budget crisis is resolved. The inability of Congress and the President to reach a compromise or demonstrate any shred of leadership has led to uncertainty on Main Street, but the markets have responded relatively tamely.
The driving reason as to why the government closed up shop was due to budget debates. While Congress has not been able to pass a formal budget since April of 2009 and has kept the government running via continuing resolutions, the implementation of “Obamacare” has caused both sides of the aisle to put their respective feet down, which has led us to this.
The Wall Street Journal reports that over 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed. What this means is that until a budget or a continuing resolution can be passed, these employees will be on unpaid leave, although they will likely receive back pay for the time that they were out of work.
CNN and Slate both posted fantastic graphs and tables outlining which departments were going to be most affected by the furloughs. Slate reports that NASA, HUD, Department of Education and the EPA will all see over 90% of their employees furloughed, while the SEC, Federal Reserve, State Department and Postal Service will remain untouched.
CNN reports that the IRS will see nearly 86,000 furloughed workers, and almost 59,000 workers associated with National Parks/National Wildlife Refuge Systems will be sent home.
While this shutdown draws attention, let us not forget that shutdowns are not entirely uncommon. The US Government has seen 18 total shutdowns since 1977 lasting anywhere from 1 day to 21 days. An interesting fact; only under one president did his party control the White House and both chambers of Congress, yet still suffer a shutdown. That was under President Carter, and it happened 5 times from 1977-1979. Oddly enough, a major cause of the shutdown was that the Democratic controlled house refused to cave to the Senate’s wish to allow Medicaid dollars to be used for abortions. I guess 1970’s Democrats are equal to today’s Tea Party.
There are two factors that the reader needs to understand. First is that this is all due to a lack of leadership from both parties. Second is that this is all by design.
President Obama is supposed to unite Congress and help achieve compromise, which he clearly has not. Vice President Biden is the President of the Senate and has done nothing to help achieve compromise as well. John Boehner has drawn his own lines in an attempt to keep the currently embattled Republican Party united. Not one person who was elected to lead is actually doing so.
The reality is that both sides wanted a shutdown so that they could blame the other party. By making the shutdown as apparent to the public as possible, politicians can use the crisis to their advantage.
Before we go making assumptions on how sad and unfortunate this all is, let’s remember the WWII vets who were nearly barricaded out of the WWII Monument. There were federal employees present attempting to keep them out of an outdoor public park, yet we are to believe that any non-essential employees have been furloughed and are suffering? That is a clear and direct message to the American People from Washington; we have just enough money to make your lives miserable until this is resolved.