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What the federal government shutdown means for us


SPRINGVILLE ó This week, the United States government entered its first shutdown since 1996, furloughing more than 800,000 ďnon-essentialĒ government workers, halting work on clinical trials, grounding NASA operations, shuttering national parks and monuments, silencing many government social media pages and affecting Americans in a variety of ways. Not least of which, a government shutdown costs the United States approximately $1.6 billion per week in lost economic output, according to IHS Global Insight, a market research firm. That translates to about $300 million per day, or $12.5 million per hour.

So, why did the government shut down? Itís complicated, but in essence, the federal government needs to be funded each year, in order to operate. If Congress canít agree how, those operations grind to a halt. There are 12 appropriation bills that must be passed, to determine spending priorities, as they apply to these federal agencies. In recent years, Congress has tended toward passing stopgap budgets, or continuing resolutions, to keep the government funded and essentially, dribbling that ball down the road. The latest stopgap ended Sept. 30, and since the Senate and House, controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, were unable to come to an agreement on what the latest stopgap would be, the government shut down and at press time, remains so.

The Journal receives press releases and information from our local political representatives, which we augmented by information on the shutdown and what agencies it will affect gleaned from a slew of national news outlets that lean to both sides of the spectrum, including, but not limited, to the Washington Post, Slate, CNN, USA TODAY, the New York Times and independent research firm IHS Global Insight. From what we could gather, here is a partial list of what will be operating and what will This week, the United States government entered its first shutdown since 1996, furloughing more than 800,000 ďnon-essentialĒ government workers, halting work on clinical trials, grounding NASA operations, shuttering national parks and monuments, silencing many government social media pages and affecting Americans in a variety of ways. Not least of which, a government shutdown costs the United States approximately $1.6 billion per week in lost economic output, according to IHS Global Insight, a market research firm. That translates to about $300 million per day, or $12.5 million per hour.

So, why did the government shut down? Itís complicated, but in essence, the federal government needs to be funded each year, in order to operate. If Congress canít agree how, those operations grind to a halt. There are 12 appropriation bills that must be passed, to determine spending priorities, as they apply to these federal agencies. In recent years, Congress has tended toward passing stopgap budgets, or continuing resolutions, to keep the government funded and essentially, dribbling that ball down the road. The latest stopgap ended Sept. 30, and since the Senate and House, controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, were unable to come to an agreement on what the latest stopgap would be, the government shut down and at press time, remains so.

The Journal receives press releases and information from our local political representatives, which we augmented by information on the shutdown and what agencies it will affect gleaned from a slew of national news outlets that lean to both sides of the spectrum, including, but not limited, to the Washington Post, Slate, CNN, USA TODAY, the New York Times and independent research firm IHS Global Insight. From what we could gather, here is a partial list of what will be operating and what will not, as the shutdown progresses.

The National Institutes of Health has stopped accepting new patients for research, cannot answer hotline calls about medical issues and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot conduct its seasonal flu program or investigate disease outbreaks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development cannot provide funding for housing vouchers, and the national public housing authorities will no longer receive payments, although they do have enough cash on hand to continue operating through the end of October.

Donít expect to get a passport during the shutdown, since the Department of Homeland Security cannot process background checks. The Justice Department is not handling civil cases while the government is in shutdown. More than 400 parks, museums and monuments are closed, including the Statue of Liberty in New York City, which turned down approximately 7 million visitors, last time the government shut its doors, resulting in gross loss of revenue.

The Labor Department and Environmental Protection Agency are down for the count, as is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, although the Securities and Exchange Commission is still operating.

The Social SecurityAdministration cannot help recipients replace lost benefits cards or schedule new disability hearings, so those things will have to wait. Veterans will also have to wait for hearings for education and rehabilitation benefits, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will not have enough money to pay disability or pension claims, if the shutdown lasts more than 2 or 3 weeks, affecting some 3.6 million veterans, nationwide.

The Women, Infants and Children program has also been cut off, meaning WIC will be unable to operate by the end of the month.

For a complete, constantly updated list of shuttered organizations, the Washington Postís reporting at: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2013-shutdown-federal-department-impact/. If the Post isnít your favorite news source, there are others out there, as well.

So, as of press time, whatís still open? National security, such as the U.S. Military, remains in operation, as do most branches of the government that protect life and property, such as law enforcement, federal prisons, emergency medical care, border control, emergency and disaster assistance, the banking system, power grid and federal property guards.

Any benefit programs that are written into permanent law or operate under multi-year funding must continue to be funded. That means Social Security, the types of veterans benefits not listed above, unemployment benefits and food stamps will continue to arrive, for the time being.

The postal system and Federal Reserve will also stay open, so if your Journal doesnít arrive, thatís still our fault.

What does this mean for us, in Springville? Many of our friends and neighbors rely on WIC to feed their families, so it may put a stretch on local food banks and community pantries, if this goes on. Our local veterans also need our help, if the VA canít keep its doors open.

That means that, no matter what your politics, now is the time to reach into your pantries, your pockets and your hearts to come together for your friends and neighbors who are quickly becoming the victims of a government that just canít get along. Now is the time to put politics aside, step down off our soapboxes and remember that, at our deepest bases, we are all people and people need to help one another through difficult times. No matter how you vote. 

I donít like to air my politics in these pages, because itís simply not relevant here, but I will say this: A government that has to shut down because it canít come to an agreement is a broken one. A government that can't do its job and makes its people suffer for it is not an effective method.

When benefits programs, sites of national pride and international fame, disease control and life-saving research are shut down because our politicians canít play nicely together, thereís something that needs fixing, no matter whether your representativeís name has a D or an R in front of it, and I think we can all agree on that much.
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