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What does a ‘government shutdown’ really mean? Not what you might think

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By Hilda Bettermann, Brandon, MN

After waiting breathlessly until midnight to see if Congress and the president would avoid a government shutdown, we thought we would do some research on what a shutdown really means. There are many sources for information on the shutdown, including our regular newspaper services, online services, etc., providing information, which is pretty consistent. This is what we found:

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A lapse in funding causing a “shutdown” is not unusual, nor is it a catastrophe. Seventeen funding gaps resulting in shutdowns have occurred since 1977. The shutdowns have lasted anywhere from one day to 21 days.

So is a shutdown really a shutdown? Does it cover all government services? The answer is a resounding no! Federal law provides that essential services will continue for “the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Also, programs that are funded through multiyear or permanent appropriations will continue to be funded during the shutdown. Some agencies operating on user fees or other sources will continue to operate as well.

From past experiences, from applicable federal laws, from Justice Department legal opinions, and from Office of Management and Budget directives, crucial government services and benefits would continue without interruption. Mandatory government payments such as Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and veterans’ benefits would continue to be paid. Social Security Administration employees in the past were considered essential, so they kept on working to meet the obligations of government.

Any foreign relations activities of the president would continue; they are an essential function. FDA activities would continue, as they are essential for the safety of American citizens. The air traffic control system and other transportation safety operations are essential to the safety of our country and will continue to operate. Federal law enforcement and border control activities will continue to operate; active duty military would not be furloughed; and federal prisons will continue to operate and no criminals will be released.

Also, the parts of Obamacare that are funded with multiyear appropriations would not be affected. We would venture to guess that the president will declare all parts of Obamacare to be essential, so every detail of the law could probably continue.

The Federal Reserve System would continue and the banking system will not collapse; the IRS will continue to collect taxes. The U.S. Postal Service will continue its operations.

Emergency and natural disaster assistance are considered essential services and would continue.

Certainly, some federal employees will be furloughed if they are not considered essential; however, in the past, the majority of federal employees remained on the job.

It appears that the bulk of federal spending will continue. Our politicians have used scare tactics about the disastrous, unfair, and uncompassionate results of a shutdown. They have not been very truthful to the American citizens. If the innuendos and implied disasters would occur, our leaders in Washington would be violating the Constitution and applicable federal law. Our elected leaders need to deal with truth, not rhetoric or political spin, in dealing with the American people. We need to hear truth, not what is politically expedient or necessary to win the next election. Our elected officials must stop laying landmines for one another and do what is right for our country!

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