How About this Government Shutdown, Eh?

Thanks in no small part to the way our media operates, Americans’ concept of what is going on in politics is often fuzzy at best. Coverage of the government shutdown has focused almost exclusively on finger-pointing, so it’s no surprise that this issue is confusing a lot of people. After a few amusing yet depressing stories of American citizens not grasping the connection between the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare (hint: they’re the same thingwe decided it’s time to bring this issue to the World’s Stage.

So what happens when the government shuts down? Plenty have probably been surprised that their lives seem to be going on pretty much unchanged. So maybe we don’t even need a government, right? Wrong. The important thing to note here is that not every federal service gets shut down, even when the entire federal government is theoretically “shut down”. The government separates functions into essential and non-essential so that we don’t dissolve into total anarchy while they figure out the budget. For a quick guide to what’s open and what’s closed, check out this handy chart from the Washington Post.

It’s been 17 years since the last time this happened, so many people don’t really recall a government shutdown within their political history. The fact that the government can even shut down probably came as a surprise to many. How does such a thing even happen? Basically, there are a whole bunch of government initiatives that need to be funded each year. Doing so requires Congress to agree on how each program will be funded and what the government’s spending priorities are within 12 appropriation bills. As we are all aware, however, Congress isn’t always the best at agreeing. Recently they’ve had to use emergency measures, called continuing resolutions, that provide short term budgets to keep programs going and prevent the government from shutting down.

This has been going well for a while, but right now Democrats and Republicans have very different opinions over what the stopgap budget that Congress passes will look like. The major dividing issue that makes this debate different is the decision about funding the Affordable Care Act, affectionately or unaffectionately referred to as Obamacare. The House passed a bill that delayed Obamacare funding for a year, but the Senate voted it down. Several votes have taken place, but they haven’t reached an agreement yet.

Now you may be asking, who can I blame for this fiasco? And for that, we refer you to the rest of the media coverage.