The American government shutting down sounds a lot scarier than the actual reality. No, I promise we’re not living in some post-apocalyptic society across the pond. Washington, D.C. isn’t vacant and if you go visit our embassy in Grosvenor Square everything’s operating normally. Visas and passports are still being processed (but at a much slower rate, and as someone who understands the pain of waiting for visas very well this makes me anxious), you can still get a speeding ticket, mail is coming to our doors, and taxes are still being paid.
What’s the catch? What (or who) is affected by the shutdown?
- National Parks and Monuments (e.g. the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty)
- Federal employees
- Anyone who wants a gun permit
- Small business loans and federal housing loans
- Medical research
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Federal government websites
- Social Security applications
- The Library of Congress
As a university student it’s easy for me and my friends and to ignore the shutdown. It hasn’t dramatically altered any of our lives, and I have to admit driving along our motorways without all the construction was very nice this past weekend. However, its lack of impact doesn’t mean we shouldn’t educate ourselves. A lot of younger Americans have plenty of misconceptions about what this shutdown means, and I’m certain they’re not the only ones.
So here are some myths and truths about the government shutdown:
Myth: Obamacare is at fault.
Truth: When the Congressional Republicans sent President Obama a bill that conveniently funded the entire government except Obamacare, our president put his foot down.
Myth: The government must provide funding.
Truth: Nope. There’s no law that requires the government to fund/defund/partially fund anything – unless it involves Social Security cheques.
Myth: Default will result in mass panic.
Truth: This is legitimate. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency, and America has never missed a debt payment. But this will only be a point of concern if we default on our debt obligations
Myth: Government shutdowns aren’t anything new.
Truth: Aside from this shutdown, there has only been one other shutdown at this scale in recent history. This occurred when Bill Clinton was president, and it was due to Congressional Republican ultimatums as well.
Myth: The shutdown came out of left field.
Truth: For anyone not paying much attention to American politics this might seem like the case. But the truth is, Democrats in the Senate have been fighting to negotiate the budget for about six months prior to the shutdown. But the Republicans wouldn’t budge.
Myth: The deficit is increasing.
Truth: False. After peaking in the year 2009, it has been dropping since. There’s a $450 billion drop expected for this year after the $2oo billion decline last year.
This is hardly a comprehensive list, but I highly encourage anyone uncertain or confused about the shutdown to read up. I’m no expert on it either, but it’s better to have even a slight understanding instead of a warped view of what a shutdown entails.