At 12:00:01 AM, on January 20, 2018, the U.S. government officially shut down. Unfortunately for the American people, this has become what my grandmother would call “old hat.”
But, what does a shutdown mean?
According to Politifact, a government shutdown happens when both Congress and the President fail to work together to pass legislation funding government operations and agencies by a designated date, requiring the furlough of non-essential personnel and “shutdown” of non-essential activities and services but leaving essential services operating.
Basically, it is an automatic thing that happens if a budget is not approved by a specific date and time. When a shutdown happens, which it has happened 12 times since 1981 , it means different things to different groups.
The politicians, regardless of party, see a shutdown as a way to force an agenda. To them, it is nothing more than a political standoff, which they hope to win by shifting all blame to the other party while getting their way. After all, they will still go to work and get paid, no matter how long the government is “shut down.”
Government employees, everyone from the military and IRS to secretaries and daycare workers, see a shutdown as a government imposed financial hardship. For those workers and their families, who are considered essential, the only hope for financial stability is for the politicians to put through a bill stating that they will get paid during the shutdown. In past years, this was done for the military and select essential services who have no choice but to go to work during the shutdown.
As of this morning, Congress has failed to introduce a bill to pay the military or anyone else.
For those unlucky enough to be considered non-essential, there is no hope. The non-essential simply go home until the shutdown is over. They don’t go to work. They don’t get paid, unless a bill is passed allowing them to get back-pay after the shutdown ends, which Congress has not done for 2018.
Does this mean that the shutdown only affects government workers and those who use government facilities? No.
According to Bloomberg and CNN, a shutdown impacts those outside of the federal government who visit museums, parks, and zoos. It also affects millions of businesses who depend on financial support from small business loans.
But wait, there’s more.
When a large number of working Americans are not paid, those consumers spend less and cut out non-essentials. They spend less on groceries, gas, and household goods. They don’t spend money at the dry cleaner, hair salon, movie theater, clothing stores, daycare, restaurants, and coffee shops. In turn, the people who own these establishments are forced to cut staff. Those employees then spend less and cut out non-essentials, leading to a slowdown of non-government industry.
The 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days and took “$2.5 billion out of the economy,” and 6.6 million days of lost work, according to Federal News Radio.
All of this is because our elected officials couldn’t manage to do what they were elected to do, in the time frame that they were elected to do it in.
All we the people can do is hope our elected politicians come to their senses before millions of people have to deal with newfound financial hardship.