Well, Hoyas, midnight happened: Healy bells were chiming ominous tolls, Congress was screaming in a blur of Obamacare and budget failures and then, in a fury of doom, death and drinking, the federal government shut down.
So what exactly does that mean? Does Wisey’s have to close? Since we live in the District of Columbia, do we still have school? (You already know the answer to that.) But don’t worry — 4E has you covered. Here are The 6 Questions About the Government Shutdown That You Were Too Terrified To Ask:
What causes a government shutdown?
The United States Congress has many responsibilities, and one of them is passing bills that fund government spending. The federal government’s fiscal year is from Sept. 30 — Oct. 1, so, in order for the federal government to have the money to function in the coming year, Congress must pass the annual budget by Sept. 30 of the previous fiscal year. Today, as you might have realized, is Oct. 1 — in other words, a new fiscal year. The problem is, Congress failed to agree on a new budget by 11:59 p.m. last night, the end of the old fiscal year. No budget = no money = government shutdown.
So, what exactly is a government shutdown, and what in the world is happening?
Since the government didn’t pass its budget, it no longer has the money to perform all of its services and pay all of its employees. Don’t worry, though: Some of our most essential functions will keep going during a shutdown. You’ll still receive your mail, Social Security will keep getting paid and the military will keep fighting — and the same goes for other essential positions like food inspectors and air traffic controllers. That being said, a large number of government workers will be furloughed. As in, they don’t get money and don’t go to work. (Congress members and the president will still receive their salaries! Currently they clearly deserve them.)
Why is the Lincoln Memorial closed?
Because of the shutdown, more than 400 national parks are closed. Those include the ones in D.C. The same goes for government services across the board — in healthcare, immigration, veterans affairs, housing and law enforcement. A good list of what will be affected can be found here.
Okay. We know what’s happening. So why couldn’t Congress pass a budget?
This Congress is currently the most politically divided Congress in recorded history. As such, Democrats and Republicans have radically different views on what should and shouldn’t be taken care of in the budget. Adding to the problem, Democrats control the Senate and Republicans (a large number of them Tea Party conservatives) control the House. As you also probably know, it takes both the House and the Senate to get a bill passed and signed into law by the President. Recently, Congress passed several “stopgap” budget bills, which have essentially agreed to fund the government for some time and allow them to return to the issue at a later date. This was that “later date.”
The debate surrounding spending bill for this year’s budget centered around the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which took effect today regardless of the shutdown. Many Republicans, especially the Tea Party members in the bunch, wanted to see parts of the Affordable Care Act defunded and delayed. Many of them want to see the law repealed altogether. The Democrats, however, remained firm that the law should not be defunded or delayed. (Click here for some more information about that.) The result was a stalemate. The House passed budget bills that would take away parts of Obamacare. Then the Senate would reject them. It went back and forth until — you guessed it — shutdown.
Now what? Will this affect the economy?
Yes and no. According to the most recent numbers, stocks have still been doing fine. Nonetheless, depending on the estimates, a government shutdown might knock off approximately 0.5 percent of annual GDP growth. Projections show that the U.S. economy is only set to grow by about 2 percent this year. That means a quarter of this year’s economic growth might not occur because of this budget nightmare. But this is all still speculation, and accurate numbers won’t come in for a long time. It also all depends on the length of the shutdown and events in the future — like raising the federal debt limit, which needs to occur by Oct. 17. (But that’s an entirely different and complicated story for which you need to do your own research. So, start here.)
But really, this is important. Is Wisey’s still open?
Yes. Thank goodness there is still some hope in this world. Go grab a Chicken Madness and just wait things out. Congress will fix this mess eventually (our last government shutdown lasted 22 days) and federal workers will return to their jobs. But with the political stagnation occurring in Congress, you better be prepared for a lot more fighting. In other words, you should probably get a chocolate-chip Oreo cookie while you’re at it.