Shut it Down

Bianca Stelian

Some call it a disaster. Others call it a load of rubbish. The most worried call it the political apocalypse. No, Sarah Palin has not been elected president – I’m referring to the recent government shutdown.

Earlier this year on September 20th, the House of Representatives (majority Republican) passed the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, a bill which most notably included legislation added by the House to defund Obamacare, a universal healthcare system imagined by, you guessed it, Obama himself. The bill, after being sent to the Senate (majority Democrat) for their consensus, was altered to remove the language about defunding Obamacare, which sparked conflict between the House and the Senate. President Obama spoke out with the Senate Democrats rejecting the House’s measures and, despite minor edits being made to the section regarding Obamacare (or, in more professional terms, the Affordable Care Act), the two groups were unable to reach agreement. As a whole, the bill also covered the government budget for the 2014 fiscal year, and as it was unable to be passed, the government was forced to shut down on at midnight on October 1st (the first day of the new fiscal year) due to insufficient funds.

This issue has had widespread consequences. 800,000 public servants (federal employees) have been forced onto indefinite unpaid leave from their jobs, and all non-essential government operations (national parks, CDC, TSA, to name a few) have been shut down or significantly reduced in terms of what they are able to do during this period of time. Want a tax refund? You’re out of luck, as the IRS is no longer providing assistance to taxpayers. Expecting your food to have undergone routine safety inspections? Think again; the majority of the FDA’s lab research has been halted. Hoping for your car to have been checked for typical safety standards? Might as well lower your expectations—the Department of Transportation is no longer issuing any automotive recalls or investigating vehicular accidents.

An additional concern about the national debt has been raised. Congress was recently informed that if a new debt ceiling is not approved by October 17, the US will begin to default on its debts. Obama has spoken out in belief of the shutdown’s correlation to the debt crisis, saying that he would not be willing to discuss the budget unless a new debt ceiling is agreed upon. While it is highly unlikely that the US would risk defaulting, this emphasis on the necessary debt payments would force the government to default on multiple other payment obligations (such as employee salaries, military wages, Social Security payments and business contracts), which would further the government’s spiral into chaos. Yalman Onaran, a reporter for Bloomberg News, argued that “failure by the world’s largest borrower to pay its debt – unprecedented in modern history – will… halt a $5 trillion lending mechanism for investors who rely on Treasuries, blow up borrowing costs for billions of people and countries, ravage the dollar, and throw the US and world economies into a recession that probably would become a depression.” While his sentiment may seem extreme, it is likely correct—the White House itself has even estimated that a one-week government shutdown could cost the US economy $10 billion. Barely two weeks into the crisis, it is certainly alarming that $20 billion could be going down the drain.

Logistics aside, how does the shutdown affect Latin students? The answer is, not very much. While concern for the state of our nation will always be present in our halls (to some extent), it’s hard to argue that anyone feels personally affected by this crisis. So what if we’re unable to access the USDA website? To the majority of the students at Latin, this is not an issue. And while talk of the situation has dwindled since the beginning of the month, people were very willing to provide their opinions. “I’m not even definitively a Democrat,” said Isabella Norris, “but I think it’s the Republicans’ fault. This whole thing is bullshit. Everyone needs to learn how to work together.” Natalie Malek chimed in, saying, “I don’t feel personally changed by the shutdown, but the fact that they simply can’t agree on a bill, leading to a national crisis, goes to show how pathetic our government really is.” The Conservative Roman was unable to provide his own insight regarding the issue, but if he had been reached, he probably would have argued, “The Republicans are not the only party at fault here. This is a disagreement involving two sides. Obamacare is a complicated and moronic healthcare system that needs to be dealt with—our president needs to get off his high horse and make compromises so that our country can begin to function again. Also, vote Michael Herman for junior prefect.” Wise words indeed.

In closing, here’s what there is to take away from the shutdown. Our government is circling the drain. Our economy is on the brink of national depression. Our faith in humanity is dwindling. However, as Latin students, we are not directly affected, so what does any of this have to do with us? Good question. Just remember, the Lehman Brothers’ fall in 2008, which was a major factor in the recession we only recently exited would be insignificant compared to a government debt default. 23 times less massive, in fact. So the answer is, while we do not play a major part in the shutdown, every action taken by the government can lead to an even greater national crisis. All that’s left to do is sit back and watch the chaos unfold.