The government shutdown of 2018-2019, essentially a tug-of-war between the President of the United States and Congress, is not the first time this has occurred, nor, given our policies, will it be the last. In this article we’ll explore the reasons behind the reasons that cause the business of government to go on hiatus, the possible outcomes, and the impact on various sectors of the American population. These including business, eCommerce, real estate, manufacturers, and supply chains.
Let’s start with what has been shutdown, then explain why a shutdown does not always mean an absence of crucial services. In the event of a shutdown shuttered services include but are not limited to:
- Department of Labor (DOL): However, due to an Act of Congress, unemployment checks are sent out.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): closed- all funded projects on hold, funding for all future projects is also on hold.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Emergency housing allocations are at a standstill or being handled by local agencies.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Oh shucks! We still have to pay our taxes.
Agencies that are not staffed during a shutdown include:
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Food and Drug Administration
And, as anyone on vacation during the span of a government shutdown can verify, national monuments, attractions that are maintained by the government, and all the National parks are closed to visitors.
Good news for seniors and others: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not affected by any government shutdown. These services are part of the mandatory aspect of the U.S. Budget. Other automatically-funded programs include the Affordable Care Act and Troubled Asset Relief. This means the only way their funding may be cut is through a Congressional act that specifically mandates it.
As previously stated, unemployment checks are sent out on schedule also. This means that Seniors can afford both their groceries and their medications, that workers seeking employment can continue to pay their bills, and that emergency housing contingencies are also in place. In Washington, it may not be business as usual, but those in the greatest need will not be allowed to suffer.
Now then, on to what causes a shut down: budgetary disagreements. At the start of the 4th quarter, Congress appropriates funding to support every government function for the next fiscal year. If their budget fails to pass the approvals process, funding for most government agencies, services and programs run out by the end of the year. On the surface that is what happened. However, more sImply put, it is a battle of wills.The most recent combatants had been the current occupant of the Oval Office versus Congress. Government shutdowns generally occur when the President is from an opposing party than the majority of those in Congress. More specifically, President Trump demanded that Congress appropriate $5-billion to construct a barrier wall dividing Mexico and the United States. Congress wouldn’t hear of it. Both sides were stalemated. Many aspects of government were shuttered. That’s the story behind the story.
There has been much ink detailing the vast numbers of affected government workers who do not receive a paycheck for the duration, those who depend on benefits checks which are not issued, services that are not being offered, and so on. What essentially happens during a shutdown is that wherever possible, local agencies take up the slack, back pay is received once the shutdown lifts, and Congress enacts various laws that force some agencies to instate certain functions, such as sending out Social Security checks.
Shutdowns remain a standoff until one side gives in. The Democrat-run Congress has stated that under no circumstances will they allocate funds for the wall, even a modified version. Not so much as a dollar. Flunkies reiterate on the President’s behalf why the wall is a good idea, and the President himself made his plea on television for his pet project to be funded.
Let’s backtrack for a moment. Historically, this most recent shutdown is the third government shutdown during the current administration and for 2018. Previously, the shutdown lasted only three days and did not impact workers or services. There have been others. In 2013 the Government closed briefly while President Obama’s camp and the then Republican Congress tried to work out a settlement regarding the Affordable Care Act. Prior to 1990, if the President and Congress could not come to an agreement over the following year’s budget, a shutdown was not the answer. All phases of government limped along and generally leverage, such as employees threatening to walk off their jobs if not paid, led to conflict resolution.
Since 1990 there have been 22 shutdowns with varying impact on our lives and our Nation’s economy. For example, the most recent figures that demonstrate the negative impact are from 2013 when the government closed for 16 days. Standard and Poor’s the leading financial ratings agency took “$24-billion out of the economy” and reduced that year’s annualized fourth-quarter GDP by less than one percent.
When are government shutdowns resolved? Usually during closed-door meetings between the Congressional leaders and the President. However, if these sessions do not bring about a workable solution, leverage generally comes into play. Yes, the President can veto any Congressional Act. However, Congress can counter and overrule a Presidential veto. What generally resolves an impasse, however, is the pressure brought to bear on individual members of Congress by their constituents.
Yes, we the people have unalienable rights and among the strongest is to tell our elected leaders that they are not representing our best interests. This generally provides a cogent wake-up call to elected officials who as career politicians would like to continue to be reelected. Saber rattling with the power of the vote is the best way to remind Congress that they warm their seats because of us.
At this writing, CNN has posted that the vast majority of the American people are opposed to building a wall along the Mexican border, let alone allocating several billion taxpayer dollars to do so. Also, according to CNN, an aggregate of approximately 55% of us blame the Trump/Republican camp for the government shutdown. We shall have to see and will update this article as this historically long government deadlock progresses. In the meantime, take your vitamins, eat your Wheaties, and stay tuned.