How Will You Be Impacted By The 2013 Shutdown?
Today, the government shut down. Or did it? Sure, some people are furloughed, but the biggest complaints on NPR are about national parks shutting down. That hardly sounds like a crisis, and maybe we should charge enough to get into these parks that the government does not have to pay for them. We could have Taco Bell sponsor the Liberty Bell and the Grand Canyon. A dancing taco could welcome people to attractions. White House tours could be sponsored by Disney, and given by an army of Robot Lincolns. If this sounds comical and cartoonish, just think of the congressional leadership in both parties. Get ready to hear about fiscal cliffs, more sequester, dogs and cats living together.
The potential for a 2013 Government Shutdown has a lot of people wondering if they will receive benefits, paychecks, or services from the Federal government. For example, defense department employees may or may not get paid in the event of a shutdown, depending on whether a resolution between Congress and the president gets signed. For departments outside the military, there is less of a chance that employees would be paid unless their services are deemed to be essential to national security or safety. Government contractors are unlikely to get paid and may be locked out of government owned buildings. Federal workers who are not deemed essential (so much for your image of your job's importance) may also be locked out of buildings, and in almost all cases can't volunteer to work for free. As an extra rub, paid vacation time can't be used during a shutdown in lieu of earning a salary.
If you're a tourist, you may face some challenges. The Smithsonian Institution would be closed, but you could visit privately owned museums instead. National parks could potentially be closed to visitors.
A last ditch attempt to defund the Obamacare launch in 2013, as well as intractable members on both sides of the aisle, could mean a 2013 shutdown designed to sway the fortunes of Congress and the Senate in the 2014 general election. If people remember their notes from the 2011 and 2012 shutdown threats, deals were made to either kick the can down the road, to raise the debt ceiling in order to borrow more money, and to raise taxes on the wealthy which averted a shutdown but also took other meaningful tax reforms off the table because Republicans argued that they kept their end of the bargain, and now cuts need to happen. The Sequester, which was much ballyhooed but does not appear to have the draconian effects that were advertised by Democrats, was a direct result of "automatic spending cuts" that nobody actually expected to happen until a deal fell through in early 2013. Therefore, the latest shutdown is going to be more of the same, especially since debt ceilings always seem to need raising, not lowering, and the treasury will at some point have to stop hiding the fact that its debt level has remained exactly the same for some time, which is impossible as long as there is compound interest. Because similar shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 have worked against the Republican Party, there are some Democrats who may secretly hope that a shutdown would have the same effect for the 2014 mid-term elections. One strange incident that underscored the threat of a shutdown happend in conjunction with President Obama's remarks on the Navy Yard shooting, where he seemed to veer right back into partisanship on a day when his own employees were attacked by a crazed gunman. Traditionally, in the wake of tragedies that involve the deaths of multiple government employees, the President will take a day off from partisan messages, with the exception of times where he sends out somebody to the talk shows in order to muddy the facts of the incident long enough to get re-elected.
In a government shutdown you still have to pay taxes on time, but you might not get your refund until the government shutdown ends. Government websites may shut down, which may keep you from getting information you need. Social Security payments would still go through. And while state governments are not part of the shutdown, their funding and cooperation with the Federal government may mean that services will be discontinued at the state level.
Notes and Special Information
Special note: In reality, the Democrats and Republicans are the same people. Obama is Bush. If you want to know which party loses during a government shutdown, it is the People. Shutdowns don't stop either side from raising money from donors, who are invariably rich. Consider for a moment that Obama mocked Romney for being a millionaire, and then took big donations from billionaires at Apple and Google, who avoid major taxes every year through offshore schemes that would get an ordinary individual arrested. Seriously, Apple has over a hundred billion dollars in the bank, thanks to outsourcing and political favors. Google got cheap jet fuel through a Pentagon program. If we want to balance the budget, maybe we should take a look at the Dutch Sandwich and the Double Irish deals. And if your think Romney would have been any better, consider that he invented Obamacare but spent most of the campaign avoiding the credit when it was tried nationally. Come to think of it, shutting down the government might be a good first step, since it seems to be giving the most benefits to the folks who need it least.