Let me start out by saying I believe the government has surpassed the limits of intelligence and reasoning in this situation. While the president pouts about the ‘Republican’ shutdown, the conservative and liberal media engender finger pointing across party lines and frequent complaints about the post office being shut down (it’s not). This creates anger and confusion in voters, causing them to be mad at each other rather than pointing at the politicians from both parties who failed to come to an agreement. I’m disappointed in the politicians from both sides who let party lines continue to blur their common sense. I can only hope that the public recognizes these inefficiencies in future elections and makes its displeasure known through the vote.
Since the government shutdown went into effect a week ago (Sept. 30), I’ve found myself searching for a way to sum up what happened in a way that explains it clearly while conveying how utterly useless the system is. The shutdown kicked into effect as a result of haggling over the budget as the federal government finally realized they didn’t have enough money to pay their employees. After the Senate managed to pass a budget that didn’t suck, the Republican Party in the House of Representatives created a bill that required defunding the Affordable Care Act as a part of the new budget, and as we all know, no one can agree on this bill.
Actually, no one can understand this bill: see Jimmy Kimmel’s “Obamacare vs. Affordable Care Act” clip. The Democratic Party refused to defund the Affordable Care Act, and the Republicans refused to pass a budget that didn’t defund the Act. Through a series of unfortunate pseudo-filibusters, debates, and boozing on the House of Representative floor, our elected representatives ran out of time and shut down ‘nonessential’ government jobs as a way to save money while they continue fighting.
As if the political incompetency here wasn’t enough, the shutdown has another problem. It is an ineffective way of dealing with our budget deficit. It is absolutely true that we don’t have enough money to continue paying these employees — we are spending more money than we have and are dangerously close to defaulting on our several international debts. But how much money are we really saving by shutting these jobs down?
The Center for Disease Control is largely shut down. Somehow I fail to see how tracking contagious diseases through the United States and issuing vaccinations is non-essential, but that is beside the point. The Center for Disease Control is allocated $5.668 billion of the federal budget for 2013. When you take into account that only a part of that budget goes to actually paying the employees, the result is saving less than 0.15 percent of the total budget for 2013 ($3.803 trillion).
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has 90 percent of their staff on furlough through the duration of the shutdown. They account for $12.953 billion in the 2013 budget, which means by shutting down those workers, we are saving less than 0.34 percent of the total budget (CNN, Fiscal Year 2013 U.S. Government Budget). Estimates that can math better than I can say the total percentage of the budget saved by shutting down these jobs is about 1 percent (CNN, BBC, New York Times).
Maybe it is time to look at some alternative places to cut our spending — our failing prison system, the failed war on drugs, Congress’ paychecks — rather than taking it out on middle class workers who need these jobs more than the government needs to stop paying them. Even if the government is right, and it is worth it to save just 1 percent of their budget, don’t forget: all of these shutdown employees are currently filing for unemployment payments from the government. It is entirely feasible we will continue paying them for the duration of the shutdown.
On a lighter note, I’ve decided to model my law school savings budget after the federal budget. After a careful analysis of where I’m spending the most money — gas, haircuts, groceries, suits (I love suits) — and arguing with myself over whether or not I really need to see the doctor on such a regular basis, I’ve decided to shut down flossing. That 99-cent box of floss each month (less than 1% of my budget) is obviously the root cause of my money-shortages. Shut it down.