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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The realities of the US federal government shutdown

National Parks Closed
Federal parks close when government shuts down
By Mark Aselstine

Over the past few weeks Americans have watched as Republicans in the House of Representatives and Democrats in the Senate have argued and bickered over the budget, eventually reaching an impasse, unable to pass a new federal budget before the September 30th deadline and seeing all non essential aspects of the federal government shut down as a result.

There is understandably a lot of confusion about what this means for us not only as Americans, but also for tourists and others around the world who interact with American companies, invest money here and travel here on vacation.

It’s closed

National parks:

National parks are closed due to the shut down.  It might be the most noticeable park of the shutdown that major US national parks are closed like Yosemite and the Monuments in Washington DC.  Smaller parks are closed as well like the area beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Alcatraz Island and even the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Washington DC’s local government:

While many Americans know that DC isn’t a state, they can’t really tell you what it is.  It almost doesn’t matter other than to know that the territory is paid for my the federal government and everyone who works locally on DC is considered non essential and therefore won’t be coming to work.

The NSA:
Shouldn’t I hesitate to even type this? Did they know that I typed it before it was even posted?  All jokes aside, the National Security Agency is an important part of US national security when they aren’t taking time out of their busy days to spy illegally on American citizens, it’s astounding that a shutdown has caused about 70% of the staff to be sent home.

WIC checks gone:
Women, Infants Children is a food subsidy that provides enough money for new parents to provide healthy meals for their children until they are old enough to go to school (where local school district’s have programs which provide breakfast and lunch daily).  Almost 9 million Americans depend on this assistance.

Military bases open ETC:
The military is one of the hottest debates in the shutdown as active duty service members would have normally been part of the shut down, but the politicians decided that while the country is in the middle of two wars, that was likely a bad idea.  So they funded the military with their regular paychecks.  Well done guys.  They forgot about some of the support services that these same folks rely on like the commissaries which allow entry level military families to survive on often what amounts to less than $30k per year in income.

Overall the entire situation is simply a mess.  It’s not unfortunate that two political parties in America can’t figure things out, it’s a joke. As an American it is an embarassing situation that the government cannot get together in time to fund themselves, without bringing the economic recovery to the brink of collapse once again.  Guys, this is why private industry has no respect for politicians!

About the author: Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures an online wine company based in San Francisco.  He's an ardent watcher of all things political, even though he's pretty sure that 10 politicians would have an awfully hard time running his parents fast food restaurant.

* Image license: Peter Stevens; CC By 2.0