US Government Shut down!

Currently, there is shut down going on in specific departments of the US government. From what I have been reading it appears that the United States is the only country where such shutdowns can occur. All other nations have alternative methods of keeping the departments working. Why has this shutdown occurred?

A government shut down occurs when non-essential discretionary federal programs close. It occurs when Congress fails to appropriate funds. In the normal budget process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year. When that doesn’t happen, it enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t even agree on that, it forces a shutdown. That signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.

In the United States, the financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. These shutdowns can occur if certain political adjustments do not happen in time. Current shutdown is the longest ever shut down in the US history. Before ’80 s of the last centuries, such events did not occur because though people did not get paid during the shutdown, they could continue to work without pay. At the beginning of ’80 s, the then attorney general gave a legal opinion that during the shutdown nobody can work. In today’s reference, this means that the affected government employees need to return the government issued electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. They cannot even access their official emails. Not allowed to access the official emails is a real “shut down”. If you have some work pending it will not get done until the government resolves the issue.

Imagine day to day problems in the USA. The flights have taken off, and the Air Traffic controllers come under the shutdown. The flights will not be able to land. (Ok, I am exaggerating!) Assume that security guys come under the shutdown, no flights can take off. I need to check up with my niece; she works for the US government in Washington DC if she is under the shutdown. What will be the effect on people? They will not be paid during this period. Some departments may use their emergency funds to pay the employees for this period, but that has limits. Then they will have to keep on working without pay. The contract workers are the worst hit. They do not get back pay. They go home and await instructions. The people who are on pay cheque to pay cheque budget will be walloped. Their loan default will start. Loan default, in turn, will decrease their credit ratings. There will be a mad rush to look for temporary jobs to handle the financial crisis. Three hundred eighty thousand non-critical employees have been told to go home, but 50000 out of these have been called back, without pay. Four hundred twenty thousand critical employees are already working without pay.

On January 8, 2019, the president Trump addressed the nation. He said a $5.7 billion wall on the border with Mexico is the only solution for a growing crisis at the border. The wall is a crucial piece of Trump’s immigration policy. Since November, the number of migrant families applying for asylum at the border has increased. Homeland Security does not have the funding to process the new surge. Many are showing up in remote areas.

The House had approved a bill on January 3, that would fund all departments except Homeland Security. It would support that department through February 8, 2019. The Senate won’t vote on the bill because Trump opposes it.

On January 4, 2019, President Trump announced that he would continue the shutdown until Congress included $5.7 billion for the wall. He has threatened to declare a national emergency. Trump could then readjust military spending to build the wall without Congressional approval. The administration is also exploring whether it could adjust the funds from the Army Core of Engineers designated for hurricane disaster relief.

But the main problem in all this is that along with Democrats many Republicans also are against the Mexican Wall proposed by Trump. How this will get resolved is anybody’s guess because this issue has now taken a political turn. Republicans say that the wall may not work; there is a need for additional security forces. Democrats say that these funds should be used to improve medical health support given to the public in Obamacare.

There are still a lot of federal cybersecurity workers at their posts carrying out what has been deemed “essential” operations, like defending government networks from attacks and keeping confidential documents from being compromised. But experts warn that trying to thwart hackers at less than full strength is risky. It is evident that cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown.

What are the similarities and differences between the world’s two largest democracies? Indian parliament many times does not do any work and is suspended because of chaos. Parliamentary chaos affects future lawmaking and future policies. Non-functional parliament makes sure that the new proposals are not taken for discussion. In the US, the government does not allow the day to day functioning of departments. Who are critical workers and who are non-critical? If workers are non-critical, does it mean that they are surplus?  By this action, there must be a small dent in the GDP too! The conclusion is because government spending is also a part of GDP.

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In the US, the system stops current working and in India system allows the future to be delayed. What system are we discussing? It is the politicians who do all this under the garb of principles. But when it comes to horse trading, politicians in both countries are replicas of each other. Their first priority is always their own seat, then their party and finally their nation. Nation first is a slogan for election times. But then there are many things said in the election time. Elected representatives follow their chosen path, self before everything else!

 

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4 thoughts on “US Government Shut down!

  1. It seems crises are not high as seen trough blog. My son is at d c Washington only. Anyway nice informative blog

    1. Ganesh it is not a problem when you are not directly affected. What about contract workers who will be paid back wages? What about those working without pay and live hand to mouth? What if your work is pending with a department?

  2. Great writing Pramod although you are thousands of miles away from the action (or lack thereof). The situation is now beginning to affect the common man who needs govt services, and who doesn’t? Those who think the “crisis are not high”, are totally missing the picture. This is serious stuff.

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