For about two weeks the Federal Government was shut down. As just about any American knows, this was due to the inability of the House of Representatives and the Senate to reach an agreement on the Federal budget. Really, it boiled down to the fact that House Republicans wanted parts of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare) repealed, while Senate Democrats and President Obama want to make sure it stayed on the books. In the absence of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans would only consider a budget that “defunds” (de facto repeals) segments of the Affordable Care Act that they do not like. Mainly this includes the health care exchanges and penalty for Americans not having health insurance. Also, many Republicans were mad at the fact that pre-existing health conditions can no longer be used as a reason to deny coverage. This may be well be because they have a financial interest or political connections to insurance companies. While Republicans are certainly not alone in this conflict of interest, to let it rise above their responsibility of running the country is reprehensible. In other words, the government shutdown can be viewed merely as a political squabble gone out of control.
What the shutdown meant for Americans is that the vital, often forgotten government services of which they have come to rely upon every day were unavailable for their use. The largest example of this was the National Park Service. It’s easy to forget the wealth of historical places and outdoor open spaces that the American citizen is lucky enough to use for free. There are plenty of national parks in the Boston area that were directly affected by the shutdown. One of the best examples is the Lexington and Concord park. The Battle of Lexington and Concord was arguably one of the most important battles in American history. To have it closed to a political squabble is a travesty. Not to mention the countless school field trips that have probably been rearranged last minute. Of course, the federal government was unable to pay these expenses if it did not have a budget.
However, this does not mean that the federal government was shut down entirely. “Excepted” functions, as they are called, were still in operation. “Excepted” functions were mainly ones that are important to the preservation of life or property. For example, this means that while the National Parks were closed, there was money available for security to make sure that no one went into the closed parks. In other words, it really cost money in order for the federal government to be able to save money. Also, the military was wholly unaffected by the seeming “shutdown.” Finally, and this was the part that made most Americans’ blood boil, the Health Care online exchanges opened anyway because funding for them was already appropriated in the long term federal budget. These hotly debated online exchanges are simply ways for Americans to directly compare different insurance rates in a central location. Before the implementation of these exchanges, it was sometimes impossible to receive a straight quote on the cost of health insurance. In the eyes of the Republicans, the point of the shutdown was to prevent these exchanges from being opened. That also proves the irony and general pointlessness of the shutdown. Simply put, Republican political jockeying achieved nothing at all.
Ultimately, the shutdown was truly insane when one considers all of the people who were involuntarily furloughed. While all the politicians on Capitol Hill were being paid, around a million other federal workers were not. These workers have families to support and, with no paychecks for two weeks, had to come up with way alternate ways to make ends meet. In fact, numerous blog articles focused on how federal workers should prioritize paying their bills. While Congress did guarantee back pay when the government reopens, it did not help workers who had bills due during the shutdown. Why, in this bad economy, was it necessary to put people out of work just to make a political point? It never was. In the end, the federal government shutdown benefitted no one and really just hurt average Americans. Not members of the wealthy “one percent,” but members of the working class “99 percent.”