As the first government shutdown in 17 years approaches, some people have been talking like it’s the end of days, but don't despair: We will survive, and it won’t be that bad.
The shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996 brought pay delays for federal workers and some major inconveniences for the public, with the Republican Party getting most of the blame.
According to a new study released by the Pew Research Center, if a shutdown occurs this time around, the blame will be shared by both parties: 39 percent of respondents said they would blame the Republicans and 36 percent said they would blame the Democrats. A New York Times poll reports that eight out of 10 Americans have said they would find it unacceptable if the Obama administration and the Republicans allowed a shutdown to occur.
As the deadlock between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate seems unlikely to be broken before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, the Office of Management and Budget has instructed agencies to revive their 2011 plans.
What does this mean for you?
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The last time this happened, some services did disappear, including passport and visa services, after 200,000 staff workers were put on furlough. The Centers for Disease Control stopped its surveillance, the cleaning of toxic sites around America ended, and the national zoos, monuments and parks shut down, resulting in the loss of millions of visitors. If the country enters into deadlock, many of the effects of the 1995-96 crisis could be repeated.
1. Most federal agencies are deemed totally essential to protect life and property, or to provide benefit payments. While government employees would still go to work, they would not collect a salary but would later be recompensed. Law enforcement and criminal investigations, prison care, border and coastal security, emergency and danger assistance, treasury and financial systems and the power grid, would all continue as usual.
2. Fortunately the U.S. Postal Service is a private agency and will continue to deliver the mail through any and all financial disasters.
3. The mandatory Social Security will continue, although the system will become backlogged. Last time this happened, 112,000 applicants went unprocessed, 212,000 cards were not issued, and nearly 1 million calls went unanswered.
4. Federal employees and contractors will have to work for no pay, although they will be entitled to receive retroactive pay should they decide to stay on at work.
5. Your garbage will be collected, unless you live in D.C., where the garbage collection budget is approved by Congress. Not so great seeing as the capital creates 500 tons a week.
6. The federal court system will stop processing bankruptcy cases.
7. Federal contracts will be curtailed and some will be unpaid. Last time round, this impacted around $3.7 billion worth of contract.
8. The training and recruitment of law enforcement officers will be suspended.
9. Visa applications from abroad were suspended, resulting in a slight decrease in air travel.
10. Service for the Department of Veteran Affairs were cut, including health care, travel, welfare, finance and travel.
11. Reports from the national weather service were disrupted. Perhaps it’s time to look outside before leaving your apartment.