Anyone who visits the federal government websites this week may be met with a homescreen message explaining website access has been restricted due to the closure of some federal offices. Last week the government shutdown occurred when the Republican controlled House refused to pass a continuation of the federal budget, allowing for the funding of federal government departments and resources.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner refused to allow a continuation vote unless congress included measures that would limit or dismiss the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which is posed to take effect in full January 1, 2014.
“Just about every decision a member of congress makes is tied to whether or not they are going to be reelected,” said Justin Vaughn, Ph.D. and assistant professor of political science at Boise State. Vaughn said Boehner hasn’t passed a continuation to open government offices likely due to his fear of losing an upcoming election to a more radical Tea Party or Libertarian candidates.
Even if House Republicans come to a short term compromise with Democrats Vaughn thinks it won’t solve the long term problem of passing a federal budget. While Senate and House members are still receiving a paycheck, thousands of federal workers have been asked to stay home without pay until the crisis is resolved.
Food and Drug Administration:
Purpose of agency:
Manages and sustain America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources. Advocates for native american rights, lands and resources.
Employees currently without pay (furloughed): 58,765
Impact on students:
As a result of the shutdown, areas of the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge Systems are closed to the public and access is restricted. Meaning any planned vacations to Yellowstone Park, for instance, aren’t happening until the government agency is funded.
Department of Defense:
Purpose of agency: Coordinates and oversees the various branches of the U.S. military and manages active conflicts like the current one in Afghanistan.
Civilian Employees: 800,000
Civilian employees without pay (furloughed): 400,000
Impact on students: Students and parents who rely on a paycheck from the Department of Defense will feel the crunch. While active duty military personnel continue to be paid, hundreds of thousands of civilian military workers won’t until a budget continuation is passed.
Purpose of agency: Handles the federal taxation of civilians and businesses. Distributes yearly returns and conducts financial audits.
Employees currently without pay (furloughed): 85,764
Impact on students: Students attempting to file taxes late, correct a previous years filing, or waiting on a return won’t see any progress or be able to discuss tax questions with IRS personnel (phone representatives) until a continuation is passed. As of now, the IRS has suspended examination of all tax returns.
Commodity futures and trading commission:
Purpose of agency:
Protects financial markets against the fraud and manipulation. Prosecutes those who violate trade laws and is intended to ensure fair trading practices.
Employees currently without pay (furloughed): 538
Impact on students:
While unemployment sits at 6.8% in the state of Idaho, another market crash, like the infamous one in 2008, could have a devastating effect on those struggling to find part time work as students. Until a budget is passed, oversight of financial trading practices will be minimal.
Purpose of agency: Overseas participation in the International Space Station, functionality of satellites, probes and exploration of space.
Employees currently without pay (furloughed): 17,883
Impact on students: Science fans hoping to visit NASA’s buidlings and famous sites will not be able to do so. Also, students will not be able to watch NASA’s television station or view pictures and data from the Mars Rover and other active satellites which will not be available until the department funding
becomes active again.
Purpose of agency: Responsible for developing and implementing government policy on farming, agriculture, forestry and food.
Employees currently without pay (furloughed):1,192
Impact on students: The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) has been suspended and will only continue in Idaho through the end of October unless a continuation is passed. The programs provides food for students with young children. According to the USDA’s website, nine million Americans use WIC benefits monthly.
What needs to happen:
The government shutdown continues to force thousands to go without pay, without government services and without the hope that elected trustees can make decisions with the best interests of common citizens in mind.
Though Vaughn sees a Federal shutdown of the current magnitude as being irresponsible, he thinks a prolonged shutdown could bring about serious change as citizens begin to feel the effects of a stalled government.
“It’s almost a situation where, if they did announce something soon, it would just be a short term fix,” Vaughn said. “The longer it is shut down, the more likely we are to get a significant solution to the problem.”
According to Vaughn, in order for members of the house to change voting stances and pass a completed budget, the government shutdown will have to seriously threaten their chances for reelection.
“Eventually, for the government to open again not just for the short term, I think it will take enough conservative and moderate members of the Republican Party and House to say, ‘This represents a potentially worse threat to my reelection chances than getting a Tea Party challenger.’”