In case you’ve missed it, the government of the United States of America has shut down. Government of the people, by the people, for the people – closed for at least the day.
As a result, if you called the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama – the chief federal prosecutor in Birmingham — you might have heard this: “Because of the lapse in government funding I am not here to take your call. If you would like to leave a message I will try to respond once government funding is restored. Thank you.”
Or if you called the Social Security office, you might have heard, in English and Spanish, “During the government shutdown, local Social Security offices except parts centers are open for a limited number of services…”
Or if you get the weekly email newsletter from the “USA.gov Team,” instead of the usual information about how to get access to various services offered by the taxpayer-funded American government, you would have seen this:
Due to a lapse in funding, the U.S. federal government has shut down.
During the shutdown, USA.gov will not be updated, but the website will be available. You can also get answers to government questions by calling 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636), 8 AM – 8 PM (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday.
The federal government will remain shut down until Congress and the President pass a funding bill.
So, what should you, the presumptive American citizen, expect? The same e-newsletter from the USA.gov Team offers a link to http://www.usa.gov/shutdown that lists exactly what might be affected by the shutdown under the heading, “What’s Affected By A Government Shutdown?”
Here’s the official government list:
- Vital services that ensure seniors and young children have access to healthy food and meals may not have sufficient federal funds to serve all beneficiaries in an extended lapse.
- Call centers, hotlines and regional offices that help veterans understand their benefits will close to the public.
- Veterans’ compensation, pension, education, and other benefits could be cut off in the case of an extended shutdown.
- Every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, will be immediately closed.
- New applications for small business loans and loan guarantees will be immediately halted.
- Research into life-threatening diseases and other areas will stop, and new patients won’t be accepted into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
- Work to protect consumers, ranging from child product safety to financial security to the safety of hazardous waste facilities, will cease. The EPA will halt non-essential inspections of chemical facilities and drinking water systems.
- Permits and reviews for planned energy and transportations projects will stop, preventing companies from working on these projects. Loans to rural communities will be halted.
- Hundreds of thousands of Federal employees including many charged with protecting us from terrorist threats, defending our borders, inspecting our food, and keeping our skies safe will work without pay until the shutdown ends.
- Hundreds of thousands of additional federal workers will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.
The same website lists which parts of the government you can expect to find on the job during the period between now and when the elected officials agree to fund the government again.
Services That Will Continue During the Government Shutdown:
- Social Security beneficiaries will continue receiving checks.
- The U.S. Postal Service will keep delivering mail.
- Active military will continue serving.
- Air traffic controllers, prison guards and border patrol agents will remain on the job.
- NASA Mission Control will continue supporting astronauts serving on the Space Station.
How long will the government be shut down? That depends on who you ask, just as who is actually to blame depends on who you ask.
The homepage of the Republican National Committee blames the Democrats. Under the title, “Stand Strong: Stop the Democrat Shutdown,” it says, “Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have shut down the federal government to protect ObamaCare – a law that Americans don’t like and don’t want.
“House Republicans have passed multiple bills that keep the government open and protect American families from ObamaCare. But Harry Reid and Senate Democrats refuse to listen to the American people. We must stand strong.”
Over on the Democratic National Committee’s site, the finger is pointing sharply at the Republicans:
“Tell Boehner: Stop the Shutdown,” the website says. “Republican Speaker John Boehner caved to the most radical Tea Party faction of his party and passed a bill threatening a government shutdown over defunding Obamacare. Because Republicans refused to back off their radical demands, the government has been forced to shut down.
“Sign your name immediately to tell John Boehner, Eric Cantor and House Republicans that shutting down the government just to deny health care to 30 million Americans is unacceptable.”
So, as a taxpayer, clearly you have choices. Meanwhile, the government is shut down.