The federal government of the United States is currently under partial shutdown as the two major political parties argue over whether or not to put any money toward building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Many people might not have noticed the shutdown as they have been preoccupied with holiday parties and college bowl games. They also might not have noticed because, frankly, a partial government shutdown is neither all that unusual nor all that impactful on the daily lives of most Americans.
It certainly matters for the estimated 800,000 workers impacted by the shutdown and will be felt more deeply with each passing day now that the holidays have come and gone. A partial shutdown, on the other hand, is not the end-of-the-world scenario some people might think.
As the Associated Press recently reported, Social Security checks continue to be distributed. Soldiers remain at their posts. Doctors and hospitals will receive their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The U.S. Postal Service is an independent agency and is not affected. Passport services which are funded by fees and not government spending also will continue.
Life goes on at the FBI, Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans’ health care, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and many more agencies. Some of those employees reportedly are required to report “without pay,” but in past shutdowns they have been retroactively paid once full funding for the government is restored. The AP reports that even employees who were ordered to stay home were compensated. In a country with a huge budget deficit, the wisdom of that certainly can be questioned.
In past shutdowns the vast majority of national parks were closed, but after the last shutdown plans were put in place to keep many of them open with bare-bones staffing or funds from state governments.
Shutdowns happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, six times during Ronald Reagan’s two terms, and several times since then. One way or another, this current partial shutdown soon will be in the rear-view mirror. —Mark Sherry