Generally, there are few things good about when the United States government shuts down. Which, in case you were wondering, it has a total of 18 times since 1976, although it has not since the Clinton administration in the winter of 1995-96. In fact, during the Reagan presidency, the government shut down on eight different occasions, averaging out to every single year that Ronald Reagan was in office. The list of negative aspects of the government shutting down is rather lengthy. To give you an idea, over 800,000 government employees have been furloughed without pay, while another 1.3 million “essential” employees remain at work without pay. The list of agencies that are either closed or have 80% (or more) of their employees furloughed for the time being are as follows:
American Battle Monuments Commission
Department of Commerce
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Labor
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Communications Commission
Internal Revenue Service
Others not expressly mentioned include the Smithsonian Institution, National Holocaust Museum, the National Archives, and the United States Institution of Peace.
It is estimated that a shutdown of three to four weeks will cost the nation around $55 billion, including $1 billion in lost wages per week. 700,000 jobs in the DC area would be affected, at the cost of $200 million a day. So far, the it seems like everything is a negative, and you find yourself asking two questions. Why is the government allowed to shut down, and what positives could there possibly be in this scenario?
The simple answer to the first question is that the United States government (Congress and the President in this case) failed to pass a budget or a continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year. This means that because no budget has been passed, in order to save money all discretionary services deemed “non-essential” to the Antideficiency Act (ADA) have currently been suspended. The Antideficiency Act in short “is legislation enacted by the United States Congress to prevent the incurring of obligations or the making of expenditures (outlays) in excess of amounts available in appropriations or funds.” All you need to know is, if Congress doesn’t have a plan on how to spend money, they are not allowed to spend money on all personnel and agencies that are not essential for the running of a nation. (On a side note, I think my favorite part of deeming things “essential” or “non-essential” is how unaffected the Department of Defense is in all of this. Not only do they possess an exorbitant percentage of available funds, but the vast majority of military interests are deemed “essential” to the everyday well-being of the nation. As opposed to, 68% of the CDC employees being furloughed. Riiiiiiight.)
The second part of the answer to the first question, is why did the government shut down this time? Typically it involves the disagreement of opposite parties holding majorities in either the Presidency or each house of Congress, but this time it mostly boils down to one man.
John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, is mostly to blame for this shutdown. President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its impact on 2014 is the subject of disagreement. This is where we start reaching the positives of the shutdown. Speaker Boehner has not allowed a House vote to develop a continuing resolution to debate the budget, which directly led to the shutdown. It was believed that enough House Republicans had allied themselves with House Democrats to pass a resolution, but Mr. Boehner would not even allow such a vote to reach the floor. This means that this is his last-ditch effort to try to abort PPACA for reasons rather unknown. He’s simply out of options, and will not let the Democrats or POTUS get their way. What’s so wrong with the Affordable Care Act then, you might ask?
The primary aims of the PPACA are to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for the individual and government. The main opposition is that under an employer mandate to either provide employees with healthcare or face a monetary penalty, that business creation and small businesses will suffer because they cannot afford such costs. The worry is that this will further stymie the economy by closing small businesses and discourage entrepreneurs from starting businesses because of the cost. And honestly, I say “so what?”.
Contrary to the rumors you may have heard, Congress is not exempt from PPACA nor are illegal aliens covered. Which means the only issue is the effect that it may have on the economy, and the irrational fear of “Big Brother” state-run socialist programs. As far as the economy goes, adding a policy that is meant to protect the people could very well hinder economic growth, but it is completely worth it. Even without Obamacare, the economy was in the toilet, which means that there are many, many, more contributing factors to its poor state that should be fixed first. Whatever factor you might cite, they are all things that should be fixed before Obamacare is even thought about being repealed or revised, because at its very core the idea of PPACA is the very responsibility of a body of government; to protect and facilitate the well-being of its people. Projections show that the new healthcare plan will provide care for 32 million more people. 32 million lives will be provided for when PPACA reaches mature form.
What’s the price you can put on 32 million lives? The cost of one’s small business, or the forfeiture of someones “American Dream”? Is it worth it, in a first world country, to put aside your dreams and aspirations for the benefit of others who may not even deserve it? I say that it is. I’m reminded of what Jesus Christ said in the book of Matthew. “Truly, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Is it fair that you may have to give up your dream job, or dream house, or nice car so that someone can have health care after attempting to commit suicide, or overdosing on illegal drugs? I don’t think it is, but it all boils down to the argument that your parents used to make, or you as a parent continually make. “Life’s not fair.” And I think, that as a populace, if life isn’t going to be fair for us for the sake of another life, it should be worth it.
So what’s the positive aspect? That the Tea Party Republicans and Mr. Boehner are out of options, and that PPACA is bound to pass sooner or later, which will save lives at the cost of the affluence of some citizens. Is PPACA perfect? Probably not. Is the government perfect? Definitely not. But I believe that this reformation’s primary aim is to save lives and provide equal medical protection for all citizens of the United States of America. And that’s a right that no government shutdown should ever be allowed to stop.
Also, the shutdown gives us good memes like this. Positive #2 in my mind.