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Government Shutdown Explained
Political differences exist. More often than not they are there and they get in the way of actual work getting done.
With this in mind it seems that the obvious response to a huge Democrats/Republicans disagreement is, of course, holding 800,000 government workers’ pay and jobs hostage because your party is too stubborn to accept that a law was passed. The rational solution is to throw the toys on the floor, stamp your feet and complain about something that has no way of being changed - it is law, and there is nothing the GOP can do about it. Except it's not because it makes no sense at all.
Are you confused? I was too, but here is everything you need to know about the situation.
What is happening?
The GOP wants to block the constitutionally approved Affordable Care Act law (Obamacare). Even though is was passed, they feel the law has to be renegotiated, even though it's, you know, already a law and you can't really change a law after it has come into effect.
They are trying to do this by refusing to vote on how to extend the government’s budget past September. This means that if the budget is not extended there will be no more money to pay thousands of government employees until the budget malarkey is sorted out.
Do you think this shutdown is a wise political move?
What is Obamacare?
Obamacare is a law passed in 2010. It was created to extend government paid health insurance to a larger portion of the population – and everyone is required to sign up for it. It was passed in response to the healthcare crisis the United States has been going through in the last five years.
Alain Sherter from CBSNews.com explains it well:
“The new law is geared to the millions of Americans who do not have access to health benefits through a job, cannot afford private insurance or who are ineligible for public coverage. The law requires all Americans to have health care on Jan. 1, 2014, or face a financial penalty. It doesn't apply to the vast majority of working adults, who already receive insurance through their employers, and people who are satisfied with their existing coverage may keep it. To qualify participants also must live in the U.S., have citizenship or legal residence and may not be currently incarcerated.” - Obamacare: What it can - and can't - do for you, Alain Sherter
This is the biggest federal health care benefits extension since Medicare and Medicaid. It will hopefully prevent insurance companies of raising their prices by more than 10% by forcing them to justify the price adjustment to the government. It will extend parental-bought healthcare to young adults – they will be covered by their parents’ healthcare until they are 26. And most importantly it forbids healthcare companies of denying services to people with pre-existing conditions.
Why does the GOP oppose the law?
The GOP feels the law was unconstitutionally approved because at the time the majority of voting members in Congress were of the Democrat Party. So obviously the law passed despite the GOP’s protests to negotiate the terms of the bill. And the Republicans think this isn’t fair, so they argue that the law has no real legitimacy. They wanted the law, which comes into effect today (October 1st 2013), to be delayed so they could try to shut it down completely.
But the main reason Republicans disagree with Obamacare is that they see it as a step towards socialism because it extends health care to more of the population. They are against it because they see it as socialist political intervention in the health care marketplace.
So the Republicans are refusing to vote to extend the budget to protest against Obamacare, leaving 800,000 government employees without work – until the budget is extended of course. That’s 800,000 people who won’t receive their paychecks this month, who will struggle to feed their families. All of these workers got sent home because of the GOP’s fundamentally ideological stubbornness.
Is this unheard of?
No, this is a known political strategy. But it hadn't been used for 17 years.
“Government shutdowns have been survived before. In the 1970s they were commonplace – at least, until a legal ruling that forced non-essential workers to stay at home rather than work for IOUs. The second of Bill Clinton's standoffs with Newt Gringrich lasted 21 days over New Year 1995-6.” - US shutdown: a guide for non-Americans, Graeme Wearden.
What are the consequences?
As I said before, 800,000 people are sat at home doing nothing while they could be working and producing for the United States. This also means the fragile American economy is being held ransom and there are fears that it could plunge into a recession – and even worse, it could affect the rest of the world.
“If a shutdown is not resolved within a week or so, the two issues are likely to be conflated into one giant standoff that threatens not just federal workers but the world economy.” - US shutdown: a guide for non-Americans, Graeme Wearden.
And of course it affects all government services like the National Institutes of Health. A Wall Street Journal reporter writes:
"At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said." - From The Atlantic's Jordan Weissmann's post here.
What does Obama say?
“You are 70% more likely to live another five years if you have insurance than if you don't. Think about just what it means to have health insurance... this is life-or-death stuff.”
On the Republican shutdown:
“For the first time in 17 years, the Republicans in Congress chose to shut down the federal government all because they didn't like one law. Republicans in the House... refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the ACA. They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade... in other words they've demanded a ransom just to do their job.”