“I want to underscore the fact that Congress doesn’t just have to end this shutdown and reopen the government; Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis.” These are some of President Obama’s final notes on the late 2013 shutdown of the federal government over budgeting for the fiscal year of 2014. The suspension of operations began October 1st an
d did not resume until October 17th, the third longest shutdown in our government’s history, trailing behind 1978’s 18-day shutdown and 1995’s 21-day shutdown. Now, Congress has found success in closely avoiding yet another shutdown by proposing a stopgap spending bill to the House of Representatives on September 29th.
In light of all the uncertainty that surrounded the integrity of our government, one of Roosevelt’s AP Government teachers, Ian Malcolm, describes how the prospect of another shutdown would have impacted both his teaching ability and his students. “It shows how governments have dysfunction,” Malcolm remarks. “It really worries me that students will tune out because they say ‘oh, look at this, these guys can’t get anything done… I think it can cause cynicism. I know it has caused cynicism out there in the general public, but these are our future voters.” As a Government teacher, Malcolm is constantly confronted with the difficulties of explaining to his students why our government in particular, where “compromise is dirty word”, has such a notorious reputation of being shut down. “In our system of checks and balances where you have to have a lot of compromise, we’re gridlocked. If you compromise, you’re going to lose the next primary election and you basically lose your job.”
However, the setbacks faced by non-federal employees in the cases of a government shutdowns statistically outweigh the price that politicians have to pay to make compromise with each other when government is in session . In November of 2013, The Executive Office of the President of the United States released an “Impacts and Costs” report that detailed the extent of the inconveniences faced by the American population during the 2013 shutdown. The report claims that the suspension of government activity during just sixteen days “delayed almost $4 billion in tax refunds” and “home loan decisions for 8,000 rural families” , as well as “denied assistance to almost 500 small businesses”. One of the most notable effects of 2013’s shutdown was the hindrance of travel-tourism due to the closing of all national parks, as well as The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
If another shutdown should occur this year, Malcolm predicts that “local communities, towns that really need tourism dollars will be hit. Those types of things [will be] gone.” Fortunately, Mr. Malcolm is content that the government will effectively continue operations, that is, under the assumption that the shutdown hasn’t simply been postponed . “If this gets averted for just a couple month, that would be governing from crisis to crisis to crisis. And these are self-imposed crises made by our Representatives.” To conclude, Mr. Malcolm had this to say: “Maybe we can get a year and a half and finish out the Obama administration without these three-month fake crises. That would be great.” Thankfully, a shutdown is not expected to occur before our next President is sworn in.
Featured Photo: While the American flag is present in every classroom, there’s a lo t of apathy towards the government it represents. Photo by Nathan Smith