What’s Left: “Riding” off the Edge

Seth Martin

Without a bill authorizing the United States federal government to continue spending money, the government shut down on October 1st. The shutdown was the first since 1995. On Tuesday, somewhere between 700,000 and one million employees of the government deemed “non-essential” were sent home without pay. This closure included shutting down Smithsonian institutions and national parks, sending home most White House and Congressional staff and gutting the staff of several

federal departments.

More importantly, the U.S. economy is impacted each day of the shutdown in numerous ways. For one, up to a million federal employees will not get paid, causing them to spend much less money. According to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, even a brief shutdown will cut growth by 0.2 percentage points in the fourth quarter. If this lasts three to four weeks, growth will face a 1.4 percent reduction, cutting U.S. economic growth for the quarter by half. Many economic experts agree that the shutdown will have a sizeable, negative impact on our economy.

All this could be avoided with a simple continuing resolution to keep our government running. The senate had already passed such a bill, and President Obama only needed to sign it into law. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Normally it would be, but this is Congress we’re talking about here. Republicans in the House are using the shutdown of our federal government as a bargaining chip. House GOP members insist upon delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, by a year before agreeing to fund the federal government. Key provisions of the 2010 act went into effect Tuesday. Those provisions are unaffected by the shutdown. Even Ted Cruz’s 21-hour

filibuster, that wasn’t actually a filibuster, couldn’t stop it!

The Senate Democrats have vowed not to vote for such a bill. The President has said he would veto any bill that requires changing the Affordable Care Act in order to fund the government. Liberals in Washington appear to be in firm agreement – the fate of the federal government will not rest upon changes to Obamacare. And it shouldn’t. Holding America hostage because you don’t like a bill that was passed three years ago is a reckless and irresponsible governance tactic. It is a political stunt with no precedent; a stunt with very little chance at achieving desired policy change and very real consequences for American citizens and businesses.

Oh, I almost forgot: the United States will reach our self-imposed debt ceiling on October 17, unless Congress does something about it. So we’ll be playing this game again soon, but next time the stakes will be much higher: for the first time in history, the United States could default on paying debts owed.

If this happens, then the United States may not longer be the investment of choice by the international community, which would have far-reaching consequences for years to come.

Contact Seth Martin at [email protected]