Why the U.S. government shutdown is no big deal

Lawmakers are working against the clock to pass legislation by midnight on Friday (Washington D.D time) in order to avoid another government shutdown. (J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP)

U.S. lawmakers have until midday Saturday 20th, (Bangkok time)  to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.

Q: Do all government programs stop in the event of a shutdown?

A: No. Here are the big categories that don’t: Programs that don’t require annual appropriations. That group, which includes Social Security, Medicare and other so-called entitlements, continues without interruption.

Law enforcement, the military, intelligence agencies and foreign embassies all will stay open. Some programs that have other sources of money that will allow them to function for a while.

Courts, for example, can spend money they have collected through fines and fees, funds that would allow them to keep operating.

The U.S. Postal Service is a quasi-independent entity and does not depend on annual appropriations, so its business will continue as usual.

Q: What would close?

A: Federal parks and monuments and federally owned museums, such as the Smithsonian. Offices overseas that give visas to foreigners hoping to visit the United States, many federal regulatory agencies, IRS call centers that provide assistance to taxpayers and most offices that handle federal grants and contracts will all close.

Q: What about federal workers?

A: Hundreds of thousands of federal civilian workers would be furloughed. They would not be paid during the shutdown.

The last time the government shut down, in 2013, Congress approved retroactive pay for workers who were furloughed, but there’s no guarantee that would happen.

The media loves to tell a story and is all this really is. Having disagreements, arguing, second-guessing and conniving players makes for good TV, for good radio and for the selling of newspapers.

It’s clickbait and not much more.

We are all too familiar with how the relevant players like to position themselves for a political win. For some politicians it seems to be just a game. Who outmaneuvers who, who blinks first, etc.

Las Vegas has nothing on Washington when it comes to betting on the winning party. Now, even political reporters are hedging their bets on the shutdown.

Barring an unexpected agreement on DACA, the federal government will partially shut down today.

But, it’s important to note that while many federal employees will have to stay home, those departments overseeing the safety and security of America will continue to be funded.

We have faced this kind of brinkmanship so many times before that most Americans are fundamentally uninterested in this political theater.

At the end of the day, the simple truth is voters elected their representatives, senators and this president to fix America’s problems, not to add burdens to their already difficult lives.

Get on with your day jobs or stand aside and allow somebody else who will in the future – Albert Jack

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