by Jamison Maeda
After 16 days of a U.S. Federal government shutdown, Congress’s approval rating fell to an all time low of 5% according to the Associated Press. The latest polls show zombies, hipsters and Miley Cyrus are experiencing a higher public approval rating than Congress.
Though some of those polled may have been joking in their responses, 350,000 federal employees and their families are not laughing. They weren’t able to work, and haven’t gotten paid. Numerous government services were not available both domestically and overseas. Some parts of the Federal government did remain open however, such as military operations and the pool at the congressional gym. Also, members of congress continued to receive their paychecks.
The government has reopened but politicians continue to bicker and point fingers. Democrats blame the Republicans, Republicans blame the President, and for some reason, Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas blames the National Park Service. “The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves” shouted the congressman to a female park ranger at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. Incidentally, congressman Neugebauer supported the shutdown and recently contributed to it by voting to delay the Affordable Care Act.
How does a modern nation’s government shut down? Here’s what happened:
On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law with the intent of providing access to the 40-50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance. Advocates of the Affordable Care Act claim it will tackle the rising costs of health care coverage, protect those with pre-existing medical conditions, and lower the cost to taxpayers for those who use hospital emergency wards but cannot pay their bill.
But Republican politicians unhappy with the new healthcare act attempted to destroy it, even after it was voted into law, by defunding it in the 2013-2014 budget. Democrats would not approve a budget that defunded the Affordable Care Act, so when the federal fiscal year began (the fiscal year starts on October 1,) the Federal government had no funding and shut down.
During the shutdown, the U.S. Treasury nearly reached the limit for what it can borrow. If the limit was not raised by Congress, the U.S. stood to default on its national debt which likely would have caused major banks failures, the collapse of mutual funds, and a significant lack of investor confidence. Also, government services would have gone offline again, interest rates on home and car loans would have risen, and retirement accounts would have been decimated. Global leaders from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan and particularly China urged the U.S. government to resolve the debt ceiling issue immediately as their economies would also have been significantly impacted.
Finally, on the evening of October 16, Congress passed a bill to reopen the government and raise the Federal borrowing limit.
But in a final show of hypocrisy on a colossal level, a lasts minute addition was tacked onto the bill. It gives $2.8 billion for infrastructure improvements around the Ohio River which passes through the districts of several Republican senators who are fiercely dedicated to cutting government spending, but no for their constituents.