This Is Why You CAN’T Shut Down a GovernmentPosted: 10/10/2013
The United States has entered the tenth day of its federal government’s partial shutdown. Over half of its 800,000 employees, those who have been deemed non-essential, continue to be on unpaid leave. As with most workers, missing a few days’ pay is survivable, but the prospect of losing a whole month’s wages is a very unhappy one. But it is not the effect of this political wrangling in Washington DC on half a million temporarily unemployed workers that is my main concern, it is the human cost on various people who should be able to rely on their government and the economic cost on the rest of the world that troubles me.
It isn’t just National Parks and museums which are closed off: federal research institutions, various military departments, and half of the Treasury is closed for business. A salmonella outbreak has, well, broken, and been allowed to spread because the information-sharing network between public health laboratories had just one of its eight staff monitoring it. Fortunately, it would seem that there have been no deaths as a result of the outbreak, but it could have unfolded very differently.
Then there is the case of the four soldiers who died earlier this week. Their families have been denied the $100,000 payouts, funding for the funerals, and assistance in meeting the bodies when they touch down on US soil that they are all entitled to. The failure to support the families of military casualties is perhaps the most shameful failure of the government to meet its obligations.
But if all this- and there are many more such stories- seems scandalous, just imagine what would happen if the Debt Ceiling is not raised when it is met in 7 days’ time. Many are warning that the US government will default on its debts for the first time. The global economic implications would be catastrophic: we’d certainly be plunged into a financial crisis worse than 2008. Others say that debt repayments will be prioritised, but other essential government services will stop. Things will be dismal, in any case. But will that scare politicians away from this?
The Democrats and the Republicans know that whichever side makes concessions will be politically undermined for years to come. They are both firmly entrenched in their positions: the Democrats are rightly determined not to be blackmailed into delaying or further weakening Obamacare- legislation for which they have a full mandate. The Republicans appear to be on a political suicide mission: they are going to block Obamacare at all costs, and will drag the nation to the brink if needs be. But the finger of blame will point clearly to the GOP if they don’t control the Tea Party extremists and concede that they do not have the right to block Obamacare.