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The Government Shutdown Essay


The Government Shutdown A1

Introduction A2

        The recent shutdown of the Federal Government was a significant issue for a number of people throughout the country, and brought the US to the brink of financial disaster and default status on its debts to other countries. That would have made it a worldwide problem with a much stronger significance for global harmony and financial markets. A shutdown has happened before, and may happen again (Plumer) A3 . Actually, it could happen again sooner than one would hope. The concessions made to get the government up and running again were only temporary, with deadlines in January and February of 2014 (US Government). At that time, new negotiations will need to be agreed to in order to keep the government running. If those negotiations fail, then another shutdown would take place.

        However, in order to understand why this is the case and why the government shut down in the first place, it is necessary to examine the most recent shutdown in an effort to see what caused it, who may have made it worse or better, and how likely it really is to happen again in the future – whether sooner or later. Only then can a person begin to prepare for some of the direct and indirect consequences of the shutdown that may come in January of 2014. Even if there is no shutdown at that time, it is possible that another temporary deal will be reached and that could lead to another shutdown in the future. Until a more permanent deal is addressed and agreed to, the shutdown risk will always be in the background.

Obama's Role in the Shutdown A4

        Many people see the president of the United States as the person who has all the power, but that is actually not true. The House and Senate, which make up the US Congress, is the group of elected officials who make the laws the people follow. The president can sign bills that have been passed by Congress into law, or he can veto them so they do not become law, but he really cannot just create something and make it a law without a system of checks and balances. While this is a great way to prevent a dictatorship and needs to be part of the process of creating laws, it also effectively ties the president's hands when it comes to making changes that prevent things like government shutdowns. He was not able to force Congress into an agreement before the shutdown occurred.
In short, Obama could only do so much in an effort to stop the shutdown from occurring. He did have some accountability for it, though, because he could have made concessions that would have kept the government running (US Government). However, these concessions were so large that he was not willing to make them and felt that they would hurt the American people. Many people stand behind Obama for sticking to his beliefs and not making concessions with which he did not feel comfortable. Others are angry with him and believe he should have done all he could to prevent the shutdown because of the damage it did to the country (US Government).

        The biggest concession he was asked to make was with the health care law. The Republicans wanted to see it defunded, and Obama refused to agree to that. He knew that defunding it now would likely mean it would never be re-funded, and it has the opportunity to give millions of people health insurance. These people could not have afforded insurance before, but through Obamacare they will be able to. That is very important to them and their families, and also has significant implications for the future of the country and its health care employees. Whether President Obama was right or wrong, however, is something that only history, looking back on the issue, will be able to decide. Since he refused to make concessions where the health care law is concerned, one could argue that he was at the heart of the shutdown. However, there were many other people who also played a role, and they comprised the United States Congress – both House and Senate.

What Congress Did and Did Not Do A5

        Another major player in the government shutdown was the Congress. The House and the Senate were both very involved with how the shutdown came about, because they were battling one another in an effort to pass measures they wanted, that the other side did not want. In other words, every time the House would pass a bill that would go to the Senate for approval, it was not anything the Senate wanted to agree to. As such, it would get rejected. The same was true for bills that were passed in the Senate and sent to the House. A certain amount of this is normal, but when it goes on for a very long time it can lead to problems that cause issues like the shutdown. The main sticking point was that Congress was trying to pass bills that would de-fund Obamacare, and that was not found to be acceptable (US Government). Every bill they would try for would end up rejected.

        Eventually, the House and Senate stopped arguing over Obamacare and started arguing over other issues. While Obamacare was still a hot topic, the House and Senate both realized that they had to focus on something else in order to move forward at all, or they would remain mired in disagreement. The president wanted the debt ceiling raised, for example, and Congress did not want to do that (US Government). The United States already has considerable debt that many Americans believe has gone too far, so the idea of raising it fell on deaf ears for many people. However, eventually Congress conceded to a temporary raise of the debt ceiling, and to other measures that allowed the government to open up again. It was shut down for 16 days, though, and the cost was enormous in many ways (US Government). The main issue, however, is not that the shutdown occurred, but that there could be another shutdown right around the corner when the temporary deadlines put in place to reopen the government come around and there have not been any arrangements made to correct the problems that caused the shutdown originally (Mann & Ornstein, 2013) A6

A Temporary Fix

        The deal that reopened the government was only temporary. As such, it will expire in January of 2014 (US Government). If nothing gets done before then, another shutdown will take place and the country will be right back where it was when the shutdown took place last time. Unfortunately, it is not likely that all parties to the problem will work together to make sure the problem is avoided. It always appears as though it is an 11th-hour deal that keeps the government running, and sometimes – as was seen with the shutdown – those deals do not get made at all, or they fall through at the last minute. That is a serious problem for the country, and it also makes international relations difficult because it makes the United States look bad in the eyes of both allies and enemies alike. While that might not seem significant, it can be a serious problem where debt and the extension of credit is concerned.

        Having a temporary fix is helpful for now, but will not continue to remain helpful in the long run. As soon as the new deadline comes near, Congress will be in another scramble in an effort to avoid another shutdown. The only real answer is finding a long-term solution, but so far that has not been possible. Now, the concern is that the government will continue to move from one short-term, temporary fix to another. By doing that, there will never be any security for the people because they will always be waiting to see if the government shuts down again or whether the debt ceiling becomes a problem and the US defaults on its debts. That could lead to another recession or even another Great Depression, which would damage a country that is already struggling in many ways to recover from the housing bubble and related economic difficulties (Plumer). The inability of the government to find a fix that is not just a temporary band-aid does not bode well for the economic future of the country, but there is little that the American people can do about the issue.

The Cost to the Taxpayers

        The government shutdown was a heavy cost to the taxpayers, in several ways. The anger and upset that was seen in the American people has not completely diminished, but the most serious issue was financial. The 800,000 furloughed employees did not all have savings (US Government). Some of them could not pay their bills, and they struggled to make ends meet. The worst part was not knowing how long they would be without paychecks. Another 1.3 million people had to come to work, but they did not know when they would receive pay for the work they were doing (US Government). When one relies on that paycheck arriving at a certain time, it can be very difficult to have anything disrupt that schedule (Resnikoff; US Government). Ironically, the one thing people could do during the shutdown was sign up for Obamacare, because the site went live for open enrollment the day the government shut down.

        Another cost to the taxpayers and their families was strictly emotional. People who had planned trips to visit government funded sites, like national parks and monuments, were completely out of luck. With the shutdown, no one was at those locations and they were closed to the public (US Government). It was unfortunate, and there were many stories of school children who missed planned trips because of closed monuments and museums, as well as people who had planned weddings and other special events in national parks and similar locations. The dissent among the ranks of the American people was high, as was the frustration. There was already a lack of trust in government on the part of many citizens, but the shutdown appeared to expand and increase that lack of trust. That made the country less stable and potentially created the beginning of long-term problems that will not be easily fixed, even when a longer-term solution to the problems that caused the shutdown are located and put into place. It will take some time to re-establish a level of trust and comfort between the government and the people, but it can be done in the future. 


        As can be seen, there were many issues surrounding the shutdown. Those who place blame on Obama only, or who blame one political party over the other, are not really clear on the whole picture. There are issues that have to be dealt with in government, and they can result in difficult, complicated, and even confusing choices. It is not always easy to do the right thing because of the red tape and procedures that are required. While that can be seriously frustrating, there is little that can be done about it from the standpoint of protecting the American people from another shutdown. However, it can also be seen that both political parties, like many people who are not in government, have opinions about how they think things should be. They do not want to give in to someone else's opinion of how it should be done, which can cause problems when it comes to reaching an agreement.

        Because of that, the possibility of another shutdown in the future is very real, and something for which the US population should prepare as much as possible. It is not possible for the public to do anything to avoid a shutdown, but they can do something to be ready for it. Planning around the types of government areas and activities that may be closed during a shutdown is important. Additionally, government employees who know they will (or even might) be furloughed during the next shutdown should focus on savings so they are not in financial trouble if they are without pay again. While most shutdowns do not last very long, they can still be troubling to families that are living paycheck to paycheck – and there are many of those in the United States today. Being prepared for another shutdown is very important, just in case it takes place. The government has showed increasing levels of disagreement in recent years, so another shutdown would not be unexpected.

Works Cited A7

Plumer, Brad. "Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work." Wonk Blog, The Washington Post. September 30, 2013. Web.

Resnikoff, Ned. "Shutdown impairs cancer treatment for children." MSNBC. October 2, 2013. Web.

Mann, Thomas E. & Ornstein, Norman J. It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, 2013. NY: Basic Books. Print.

US Government Shutdown 2013 (2013). The Guardian. Retrieved from A8

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