A federal budget has yet to pass Congress. Having only one more day (Friday, April 8) to do so hasn’t curbed opponents in their disagreements and hasn’t brought agreement to the table, either, meaning that many daily operations of the federal government may have to cease.
As the threat of a government shutdown seems imminent, let’s reflect back on the last time our country faced this circumstance. After all, they’re practically identical.
on Nov. 14, 1995:
“Today, as of noon, almost half of the federal government employees are idle. The government is partially shutting down because Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment.”
Situation as of April 7, 2011
The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives wants to force through an annual budget
that will cut dramatically from educational funding and healthcare, make Medicare unaffordable for many seniors, and come close to shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency. The same GOP budget proposal from the House extends significant tax breaks and loopholes to top income earners, megacorporations and offshore investments, though.
Pres. Clinton on Nov. 14, 1995:
“It is particularly unfortunate that the Republican Congress has brought us to this juncture because, after all, we share a central goal -- balancing the federal budget. We must lift the burden of debt that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren, and we must free-up money so that the private sector can invest, create jobs, and our economy can continue its healthy growth.”
Situation as of April 7, 2011
Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House’s budget committee, has claimed lowering taxes on wealth and corporations will somehow increase tax revenue. His plan
would also over a trillion dollars in services for seniors and children, while increasing taxes on middle class families.
Pres. Clinton on Nov. 14, 1995
“(The House Republicans) sent me legislation that said -- we will only keep the government going, and we will only let it pay its debts if and only if we accept their cuts in Medicare, their cuts in education, their cuts in the environment, and their repeal of 25 years of bipartisan commitments to protect the environment and public health.”
April 7, 2011
Ditto today, and to the same programs. They propose changing Medicare to a voucher system, resulting in dramatic increases in it costs while also reducing its benefits; they want to reduce educational funding; they want to remove regulations on environmental factors; they want to remove funding from WIC and community health centers; and they want to end funding to the agencies that enforce environmental laws.
And if today’s scenario is so similar to the last time, then we should reflect on what its impact was in ‘95.
Although the November 1995 shutdown lasted only six days, do you know how much it cost us?
About $400 million in revenue, said the IRS. About $400 million in pay to furloughed government employees, too. That’s $800 million
in costs over only six days.
And that’s not all of the impact
- Approximately 400,000 new Medicare applicants were delayed in getting coverage, and thus delayed in getting needed medical services.
- Another 112,000 could not get their Social Security claims processed. Another 212,000 couldn’t get new or replacement SS cards.
- About 160,000 couldn’t get the passports or visas they applied for (which means they couldn’t travel – which means airlines lost millions).
- Over $800 million in FHA mortgage loans got delayed in processing, meaning over 10,000 low-income Americans were stranded in getting a residence, leaving many on the brink of homelessness.
- National parks turned away over 2 million visitors, meaning the government could not collect fees for entry, camping, etc. – and stores all around those parks lost business as a result, too.
- The National Institutes of Health couldn’t accept new patients, and not only did the Centers for Disease Control and Research have to stop its projects, but they couldn’t even answer their phones.
- Collecting delinquent child support payments was suspended.
- Work on over 3,500 bankruptcies stopped, leaving both the filers and the companies with claims hanging by a thread.
- Even services to U.S. veterans ceased.
And that was only for the six-day period of November 14 through 19. Beginning December 16 of that same year, it happened again
– and the federal government had to suspend many services until over three weeks later (January 6, 1996). The federal Office of Management and Budget estimated the total costs of these shutdowns to be $1.4 billion
And what will it cost
us if it happens again?
All the harms from 1995-96 will return, only this time in the current dollar value – and with further impact from current events.
Rescue and fire control teams on national properties will be closed, and during a time South Carolina folks in particular are aware of the risk of forest fires.
No new applications for Social Security or food stamps will be accepted, and during a time when unemployment is still very high, earnings are low, and more seniors are retiring simply because of job loss. Funding for food stamps will be reduced after the end of the month, too.
And because of its particular tax time occurrence, American citizens will be affected even more on an individual level; the IRS won’t be operating to process their tax refunds.
In addition, both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission won’t be able to operate, meaning the financial instability of our country will be at further – and unguarded – risk.
Let’s reflect on the past once again when considering all of the possibilities of shutdown effects – remember, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich was ridiculed
nationally after his pursuits. The events are also credited with securing Clinton’s reelection in 1996, too.
And current speaker John Boehner has been wading in a pool of laughing stock since the last election.
With the current situation carrying a near mirror-image to the last incident, it stands to reason that Boehner will lose, too – and Pres. Obama could very well find the GOP’s latest stab in America’s back to the guarantee to his reelection next year, too.
So if the GOP wants to keep this up - go ahead and do it. But citizens will make sure you regret even more than your party did 15 years ago.