Megan Hayes | News Editor
Sign indicating closure from shutdown. / PBS, 2019
Gridlock, dog-whistle, gerrymandering, and witch hunts are terms in which some of us have become familiar with hearing when consuming information relating to governmental happenings. While it is good that there are some specific terms for events within the United States government, oftentimes the meaning is lost within the sea of these buzzwords floating around in the media. Many of us when tuning in to the news will completely blank out when we hear this political jargon, with the true meaning soaring over the tops of our heads. This is why it is important to have a deeper understanding of what the literal sense of these words mean. In recent news, there has been a lot of chatter about a government shutdown. What immediately pops into many heads is the worst possible scenario – no laws, chaos, crime runs rampant? Our government is gone? Nope! Let’s take a look at the facts.
Although a government shutdown doesn’t mean complete and utter chaos and bedlam, it does mean there are some negative consequences of the incongruence in our government. This government shutdown, which is set to happen on October 1st, 2023, is essentially because approval is not expected to be passed by the twelve Appropriations Subcommittees. These subcommittees, divided into groups like Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Homeland Security, and more, are in charge of coming up with discretionary funding for these specific committees. When these subcommittees cannot decide on the allocated amount of money going towards these discretionary activities – also known as “things that are not necessary but that may be useful” – all of these unnecessary functions must stop until Congress can agree (Cambridge). The aforementioned twelve committees must come together on a federal budget, which has to be passed by September 30th – before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st. There are ways to avoid this, namely by extending current funding into the new fiscal year and extending the time to come up with a new budget.
Some of the consequences we can expect if the government does shut down is to have “non-essential” government personnel stop working, and stop earning a paycheck. “Essential” federal agencies that will continue work are the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, air traffic control, law enforcement, and Medicare. This may also mean food assistance by the government being delayed, closures of National Parks across the country, and furloughs – “suspension or discharge of a worker on account of economic conditions or shortage of work” (Kuchar, Oxford). This puts many in compromising positions, as furlough means that they will not be receiving a paycheck or be able to volunteer their help for the duration of the shutdown. These employees left without pay will receive a “backpay” once the shutdown has concluded – which was luckily fully guaranteed in 2019. Additionally, on top of lack of immediate pay for federal employees, the shutdown (if it comes) will cause some inconveniences. These inconveniences may range anywhere from lack of food and safety inspections and delays in passport processing (causing issues with travel) to shuttering of non-essential visitor stands at parks.
While it is no guarantee that the United States will be affected by a shutdown, as the days creep closer to September 30th with no word of a deadline extension, tensions grow. The United States has made it through several government shutdowns before on issues like the Affordable Care Act and border wall funding. The current issue causing the probable shutdown is a disagreement on whether or not to cut funding – many hard-right republicans want to lower the top-line budget to $1.4 trillion, which contradicts the pre-agreed $1.6 trillion agreed on by President Biden. Stopgap measures have been put into place to cut federal spending down by 1 percent, which takes stress off of programs exempt from the spending (like the military), and enforces higher cuts on programs like education. The slope is both slippery and polarized as tensions continue to heat up.
Bradley, Candice. “The Current and Confusing Language of Politics.” Dictionary.Com, Dictionary.com, 19 Jan. 2021, www.dictionary.com/e/s/current-confusing-language-politics/#all-hat-no-cattle.
JeffCoxCNBCcom. “The Fed Would Be ‘flying Blind’ on Interest Rate Decisions after a Government Shutdown.” CNBC, CNBC, 20 Sept. 2023, www.cnbc.com/2023/09/20/fed-interest-rate-moves-affected-by-government-shutdown.html.
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“What Happens to Furloughed Employees during a Government Shutdown?” Federal News Network, 20 Sept. 2023, federalnewsnetwork.com/workforce/2023/09/what-happens-to-furloughed-employees-during-a-government-shutdown/#:~:text=During%20a%20shutdown%2C%20furloughed%20employees,not%20fully%20guaranteed%20until%202019.
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