How A Government Shutdown Will Affect Us All (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bureaucracy)

With the clock ticking down to the much fretted after government shutdown, it falls to responsible journalists to help the people understand the situation, prepare for it, and alleviate their fears. Unfortunately, it seems that most news channels are doing more to add to the panic then anything else. As such, let’s take sometime out to discuss what a government shutdown is and how it will change life for us.

What Is A Government Shutdown?

A federal government shutdown is a situation where a government halts many services that aren’t deemed “essential.” During this time, certain federal employees must take a temporary unpaid leave called a furlough.

There are several reasons why a government may shutdown – most of them coming as a result of a disagreement regarding how our federal budget should be handled. In this case, the Republican members of Congress are opposing President Barrack Obama’s healthcare budget resulting in a deadlock.

It should be noted at this point that this is nothing new. We have had a long list of federal and local government shutdowns going back to 1976.

What Services Will Be Stopped?

The first services to be affected will likely be national parks and museums. During the last government shutdown, which lasted the longest in national history at 28 days, all 59 national parks were closed.

Military families may encounter struggle as well. During a shutdown, there is a chance (repeat, a chance, not a guarantee) that active-duty troops will still have to report for assignments without pay. However, as soon as the government goes back to work, they would be paid back for every dollar missed.

Other programs that would be halted include several smaller food assistance programs, WIC, and an estimated 20 of the 1,600 different Head Start programs.

What Services Will Continue?

Most other federal services would proceed as planned with little-to-no hindrance. For example, despite the tourism troubles connected to closing our parks and museums, travel will still be possible. It may be hindered slightly as airport controllers are forced to make cuts, but you can still get to where your going as long as you’re expecting a few more delays then normal.

Social Security and Medicare would also be slowed but still function as normal. The same goes for those receiving Unemployment benefits.

Federal courts will still hear cases, the mail will still come in, the FDA will still inspect meat and handle recalls, prisons will still be holding and processing criminals, homeland security will still serve and protect us, and we (sadly) will still have to pay our taxes.

Should I Be Worried?

As stated, this is not the first time we’ve experienced a government shutdown. A shutdown typically only lasts 1-3 days before it is resolved and we’ve seen them with some frequency – sometimes multiple times in a single year. It’s actually quite unusual that we haven’t seen one in so long.

In the meantime, just relax. If you’re a federal employee that would be affected by a shutdown, you should have already been told to start looking for alternative temporary work by now just to be safe. We’ve done this song-and-dance 17 times now (possibly 18 or 19 if you were affected on a local government level) and we’ll come out of this just fine. The boys and girls in The White House aren’t getting any benefit to making life harder like this and legitimately want to fix the problem. Just keep telling yourself, “This to shall pass.”

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