The U.S. Government shutdown
Oct 16, 2013 / 5:00 am
As I write this, the United States is still mired in a government shutdown that stands to force the Federal Government to not be able to pay its debts, and default on its loans—for the first time in its, rather long, history. This is, of course, unprecedented. However, as I write this on Monday, it stands to reason that the situation might be resolved and, therefore, renders this first paragraph meaningless. The alternative, though, is that the shutdown is still underway and stands to dutifully challenge the status quo of the American system.
The complaints I have read, which are mostly Canadian, seem to pin the blame of the shutdown on the Republican Party. This is most certainly true. The Republican controlled House of Representatives must pass a budgetary bill so the Federal Government can continue to spend money. They are then meant to pass that bill, send it off to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, at which point the President can sign that bill into law and things will continue on, business as usual.
The problem is that House Republicans are tired of the way the current administration has been budgeting, insofar as that a budget does not currently exist. The House has been forced to pass provisional spending bills, which essentially issue a blank cheque to the government, where they can decide to spend whatever amount of money they deem necessary on Federal expenditures. The issue is that the United States currently has a $16 trillion debt, which is enormous, and Republicans feel that the debt needs to be paid down, which would require the government to start cinching its spending and balancing the cheque-book.
The way the Republicans have done this, by holding the government hostage, is of course not entirely the best course of action. This strategy threatens their party's overall coherence, and makes the Democrats look like innocent victims of the Tea Party-ravaged Grand Old Party. The key distinction appears to be that, for all of CNN, NBC, CBS, and MSNBC's outrage at the government shutdown, people fail to realize that a huge portion of the Federal Government is still operating. 83% of it, actually, is still continuing as if nothing has happened at all.
However, President Obama has made it entirely clear that any actual cuts made to the Federal Government are entirely visible and, hopefully, painful. The reasoning behind this is, of course, partisan in nature, and reeks of a vindictive streak that is unbecoming of an individual in his current position. The Amber Alert system, which was put in place to save kidnapped children who could potentially be harmed, was temporarily shut down as a result of the "government shutdown." Nevertheless the NSA, FBI, ATF, CIA, and Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" project website, which encourages students to get out there and get active, were all operating perfectly well.
Yet doomsayers and apocalyptically minded folks are all shouting, some at the top of their lungs, if the government continues this shut down the economy will falter. The world will be on the brink of yet another recession, and all hell will break loose. The scariest thought is that might be true. The government is so intermingled with the economy, and our livelihood, that if it shuts down, the effects will create a worldwide ripple that could permanently damage global financial markets.
To draw conclusions from this shutdown would be a little shortsighted, as the fallout has yet to emerge, and will likely lead to plenty of partisan finger pointing. However, one thing is clear: if the government is, in fact, so deeply intermingled with our economies and our lives, we have perhaps come to a point where we depend upon them far too much. Former President Gerald Ford said, in an address to Congress in 1974, something that still rings true today: "[Citizens] know that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have."
If the U.S. Government can shutdown national parks, privately funded memorials, and refuse to pay off its debt, despite operating at 83% capacity, it is no longer an institution comprised of citizens. It has been unmoored from the needs of the people, and is instead looking out for itself.
There's a scary Halloween story for the kids. It's no longer the boogeyman coming to steal your soul, it's the government coming to steal everything but.
Read more Practically Politics articles
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