Not much of a shutdown if 80% of the government is still working.
What happens if they shut down the government and no one cares?
Most Americans awoke Tuesday morning and went about their day as usual: Factory workers in Detroit continued to make cars, programmers in Silicon Valley developed software and farmers in Iowa worked their fields.
Despite fears over the government shutdown, the only town that truly felt the effects of the high-stakes poker game being played by politicians was Washington.
In a world that increasingly depends on government to manage every minute aspect of daily life, the prospect for some people of losing their nanny can be scary. Indeed, most of the uproar over the government shutdown, in the media and on social networks, focuses on high-visibility institutions that deal directly with the public.
“Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice,” read a tweet sent by the U.S. space agency. Can the world survive without fresh pictures of space popping up on Twitter feeds, or government programs that waste millions of dollars sending robots to Mars? We’re about to find out.
The Huffington Post warns, “If you weren’t already panicked about the possibility of a government shutdown,” news the closure of the National Zoo means there is no live feed of the pandas “may push you over the edge.” People who can’t stand the thought of going a single day without viewing the cuddly animals will have to visit one of the four other websites that feature real-time feeds of pandas at other zoos.
Others are lamenting the fact the Statue of Liberty has been shuttered.
“The statue … is America, it symbolizes freedom, jobs, a government you can trust,” said one tourist.
But this is nothing new: It was closed after 9/11 and visitors were not allowed back to the top until 2009. Liberty survived.
Other high-profile sites that have been affected include the Smithsonian museums, tours of the Capitol building, and the Lincoln and Second World War memorials. Reports of empty cars on the Washington Metro give the illusion the government shutdown will have a profound impact on Americans’ daily lives.
But the truth is of the 4.1 million people employed by the federal government, 80% will still be expected to show up for work. Only 800,000 of them will be out of a job until the impasse is resolved.
The shutdown only affects workers who are paid through discretionary spending. Numerous departments, including the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Mint, are funded from other sources and will run as normal. Other agencies, such as the State Department and Amtrak, are partially funded by user fees. So, for the time being, the trains will run, passports will be issued and the mail will be delivered.
Other government programs that many poor and elderly people have come to rely on, such as Social Security, are counted as mandatory spending and will not be affected. The workers who process Social Security benefits will not be paid until the government is up and running again, but they will be expected to perform their duties in the meantime.
Finally, services that are considered “essential” will continue to operate, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Veterans’ Affairs and Justice. In other words, the borders will still be protected, flights will take off and police will keep catching bad guys. (And why the Federal Student Aid department continues to operate, while the National Institutes of Health cancels clinical trials for children with cancer, suggests that the U.S. government seriously needs to re-prioritize what it deems to be an “essential service”.)
Even the National Security Agency won’t have its domestic spying program affected by the shutdown and the U.S.’s 1.4 million active-duty military personnel will get their pay cheques................