A government shutdown primer

Since the odds now favor a government shutdown, it’s time to figure out what a shutdown would and would not mean. Politico offers this guide from the Associated Press, which seems largely devoid of the AP’s usual pro-Democrat spin.

A shutdown would not affect the delivery of mail or of Social Security and Medicare benefits. The airports would remain up and running with no impact on air safety traffic control. Travel visas and passports would still be issued and our embassies would stay open (barring another terrorist threat that scares President Obama into closing some of them).

Federal courts would operate as usual for about ten days. After that, there would be furloughs, but cases still would be heard. The Food and Drug Administration would continue with federal meat inspections and handle high-risk recalls.

The military would continue to function normally. However, the pay checks of servicemen and women would be delayed. And about half of the Defense Department’s would be furloughed, according to AP.

The VA would continue to offer its services to veterans. Thus, veterans would still be able “to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics.” And “operators would still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits.”

So what services would be halted or impaired?

All national parks would be closed (I’ve pushed my weekly fall visit to Shenandoah Park up to today). So would the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo here in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, the high tourist season is over.

On the health front, no new patients would be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted. According to AP, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks, from flu to that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.”

The Head Start program would feel some impact immediately and more as time went on. It’s not clear that, in the short run, any centers would have to close.

Food stamps would still be doled out and school lunches and breakfasts would continued to be served. However, AP says that something called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children “could shut down.”

The federal loan process would be affected. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended (polling shows, however, that a plurality of small business owners favor Republicans in the showdown debate). The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, wouldn’t underwrite or approve any new loans during the shutdown. And “many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.”

My takeaway is that a relatively brief shutdown probably wouldn’t cause enough pain or inconvenience to cause widespread outrage, although the mainstream media will do its best to gin it up. A prolonged shutdown would be quite another matter.


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