And So It Begins

Today marks the beginning of a few things. It’s the beginning of a new month, the start of Halloween festivities, and the first day of the government shutdown. First time in 17 years, actually – but if you didn’t know that, you’re either: a) living under a rock, b) deaf, c) completely and utterly clueless, or d) you simply don’t care (even though you should) because seriously, that statistic has been thrown around by every single news media outlet today. And not once, not twice, but so much so you’d think that some news stations would want us to realize that the 17-year figure is the important thing…rather than, say, the impact.

What’s sad is that this entire shutdown could have been avoided had certain members of Congress *cough*cough*Republicans*cough* given up their childish antics. This ain’t drama school, y’all. The House needs to get its shit act together. Essentially, the House Republicans demanded that they would only agree to fund the government if the entirety of Congress delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And now that the shutdown has happened, they are throwing an even bigger hissy fit because these House members feel like they are receiving all of the blame, and Obama and those Democrats are failing to compromise with them (even though earlier today, Obama stated he is more than willing to work with – and subsequently compromise – with both Republicans and Democrats). I’m currently playing the world’s smallest violin for you. And while I’m in (mild) rant mode, let me just bring in Captain Obvious to say: no shit, guys. Where else would you like Americans to place the blame?

House Representative Marlin Stutzman from Indiana showed his disgust of the Affordable Care Act by referencing some of this country’s founding principles – one such being that our government is built upon the “consent of the governed.” Kind of eating your own words there, aren’t you Marlin? Someone want to show this guy the stats of how many individuals are benefiting from Obamacare? Firstly, Obamacare was created with the consent of the governed, and secondly, you as a House Representative sure as hell aren’t showing your support of “the governed” by letting this shutdown continue…all because you are against something that is a law. It’s in effect as we speak.

And then you have House Representative Steve King from Iowa stating that the Affordable Care Act is “unconstitutional.” Sure, Steve, sure. But didn’t the Supreme Court uphold this “takings of God given American liberty” last June? And isn’t the Supreme Court the body of individuals we have in place to interpret the Constitution? You’d think these things would be fairly evident to a member of Congress, but then again…

House Republicans are clearly failing to see the obvious here: the Affordable Care Act IS. A. LAW. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s here. But maybe they need a reminder. Cue Bill. Surely the House members can’t be that old that they’ve forgotten all about Schoolhouse Rock.

At the end of the day, however, it is most frustrating to see how members of Congress continue to be entrenched in this stalemate while hundreds of thousands of people suffer. Over 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed, the CDC is stopping its flu program, local housing authorities will get no additional money for housing vouchers, parks and museums are closed all across the country, and regulatory agencies such as the EPA are almost completely closed. The only way that these furloughed employees will receive their salaries retroactively is for Congress to pass a measure allowing this to happen. Just remember to follow in the footsteps of 1996, guys (for those of you that might not understand that reference, 1996 was the year of the last government shutdown, but a measure was passed to ensure that federal employees ended up receiving their pay that they lost out on while the shutdown was in progress). Yet all the while, members of Congress are still receiving their pay, which for the record, is about $3,300 (on average) per week – over three times more than the average American worker makes (which is a little over $800 per week). Guess I really should have listened to my mom all those times she said life isn’t fair.

And dare I mention the impact this will have on our economy? The Office of Management and Budget estimated that the government shutdowns that occurred in 1995 and 1996 ended up costing $1.4 billion (which is equivalent to about $2 billion today). Although some researchers from IHS, a global market research firm, have said that this shutdown could cost the government over $300 million a day. And while the United States was on track to reach a domestic product growth rate of 2.2 percent during its fourth quarter, a government shutdown that lasts for a few weeks could cut growth by up to 1.4 percent. Although these numbers do not include other less tangible costs such as lower employee productivity and citizens losing their faith in the federal government. A recent CNN/ORC poll illustrated that only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while Congress has received a whopping 87 percent disapproval rating. Let me be the first to say congratulations to our Congress for receiving an approval rating that was actually less than former President Richard Nixon’s during Watergate (in 1974, Nixon had an approval rating of 25 percent).

The other dangerous issue to address is that this government shutdown is also very near and dear to the proximity of the debate over the debt ceiling, in which the government’s borrowing authority would come to an end on October 17 if the ceiling is not raised. If the debt ceiling is not raised, get ready to see more negative economic impact. Once the government starts defaulting on its payments, just wait for the stock market and its indexes like the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 to sink into the red.

In the meantime, House GOP members are coming together to attempt a piecemeal strategy that would call for separate votes in funding government agencies. According to Senator Ted Cruz, this strategy is a way for Republicans to slowly and steadily defund the Affordable Care Act. Brilliant masterminding, Ted. With that smart brain of yours, maybe you’d like to remind me what an actual filibuster is again? Oh wait…

The single-mindedness of some members of Congress proves one thing: they are forgetting that their responsibility is to the American people. There is a time and place for partisan politics, but it should not be prioritized over citizens’ wellbeing. Our federal government has a responsibility to represent our needs, to bring the most amount of good possible to the American people, but instead, we ended up getting an outcome nobody wanted. And as I’ve said before, the fault lies with Congress, but everyday citizens are the ones that are suffering the most. Reconciliations and reparations need to be made, and they need to be made fast. Members of Congress need to remember why they were elected for the jobs they have – it’s not to create a win-lose situation between the Democrats and Republicans, it’s to fight for and ensure the stability of this nation and for the people living in it. Good night, and good luck.

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