How a Federal Shutdown Affects the Country

As the federal government has only five days remaining for Congress and the president to work out a budget to prevent a government shutdown, an economic catastrophe could be in the making.

The last time the U.S. experienced a federal shutdown was in 1995, and it lasted about three weeks. During that time, new patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, hotline calls to NIH about diseases were not answered and toxic waste cleanup work at 609 sites stopped.

The federal government would never entirely close up shop. Even without funding, the Defense Dept. would remain open. Air-traffic control would continue, as would border patrol, the operation of federal prisons, disaster assistance, and aspects of medical care, according to a Feb. 18 Congressional Research Service report. Agencies with funding other than that provided by annual congressional appropriations could also continue, such as the U.S. Postal Service.

However, other services that Americans use on a regular basis would be suspended. Permits for park use, bankruptcy filings and passport applications would be suspended.

Also, many critical economic functions would be left unattended to. Export licenses would be suspended, making it impossible for businesses to export goods. Critical economic reports provided by the Labor Department would cease. With it being tax season, while essential financial functions to run the nation’s banking system would continue, IRS processing would stop on tax returns.

Unemployment checks, veterans’ benefits and Social Security payments could also be halted.”If Social Security checks didn’t go out, that would be a huge problem,” Ron Haskins, a fellow at the Brookings Institute and former aide on the House Ways and Means Committee said, according to BusinessWeek. With millions depending on those checks to live, “all hell would break loose.”

The game of partisan political brinkmanship being played by Democrats and Republicans threatens to further throw this nation off course. The only group that will lose in this game of chicken is the American public. Childish bickering between the two parties has created governmental dysfunction that has made it nearly impossible to pass meaningful legislation to work on America’s trade policies, let alone even fund the government.

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