The fight for change

Megan Chrisler, Features Editor

 

After the Senate rejected the House budget proposal, which included the defunding or at least the delay of the Affordable Health Care Act, the government officially shut down the morning of Oct. 1. While programs deemed essential kept their funding, such as the military, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, other programs like The Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weren’t as lucky; thousands of federal employees were laid off as well.

President Barack Obama scheduled a meeting on Wednesday between members of both major political parties. According to NPR’s Scott Horsley, Obama wanted “clean” legislation that ignored Obamacare and dealt with the issue of the debt ceiling, which is the underlying battle of the shutdown; if not dealt with, America could lose borrowing authority by Oct. 17. There were also plans to pass legislation to open small parts of the government, including national parks and the Veterans Affairs Department, but House Democrats rejected these. Needless to say, the Wednesday meeting was unproductive, and by the third day after the shutdown there was still
no end in sight; according to NPR’s Mara Liasson, shutdowns usually last a minimum of a week.

“This is an issue of fairness,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said before the shutdown. “How can we give waivers and breaks to all the big union guys out there, how can we give a break to all the businesses out there and yet stick our constituents with a bill that they don’t want and a bill they can’t afford. That’s what this fight is all about.” Liasson noted that Republicans may reopen the government if Democrats agree to a small change—“repealing a tax on medical devices.”

“Absolutely, I will not negotiate,” Obama said in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep after the shutdown. Even if no agreement is made, he said, allowing a faction to threaten America’s credibility to further its agenda would be “blackmail.”

Economically, this could be quarantined to just a short term hit; the last government shutdowns in the 90s—also blamed on the Republicans—were not a cause of significant economic concern. However, experts cannot make accurate predictions without an idea of the length of the shutdown. With no predictability, investors may be less willing to put money in the economy; this can result in a lower gross domestic product. Consequently, 75,000 jobs could be lost, not including the estimated 800,000 out of 2.62 million lost federal jobs. With or without this, the real economic downturn may come on Oct.17 if Congress cannot agree on a solution.

“[A] default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, and U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, potentially resulting in a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse,” the Treasury Department said. While Republicans are still hoping to get what they want, Liasson said that Democrats “aren’t in the mood to rescue the Republicans from the box they’ve got themselves in.” At the time of this writing, no solution is in the near future.