A government shutdown appears increasingly likely, as President Obama adamantly refuses to negotiate over Obamacare and Republicans appear intent on forcing the issue. Government funding runs out September 30, but what would a government shutdown actually look like, and would it be the disaster the Washington, D.C. media claim it would be?
The answer is probably not. Since most Americans live well outside of the Washington, D.C. area and don’t receive welfare or any other kind of federal subsidies they’ll most likely never even know a shutdown happened until they turn on the evening news.
First, it’s unlikely that a shutdown will last for very long. Neither side wants a shutdown at all so it doesn’t seem reasonable to think the government will shut down for months at a time. Rather, a shutdown of a month or even less is probably more likely, since neither side wants to cause anyone any serious pain.
So what about a short shutdown of 4-6 weeks while the House, Senate, and Obama have their Mexican standoff? Even that won’t really be a big deal.
Those who do rely on government welfare programs or Social Security may notice a difference, if the shutdown goes on for a lengthy period of time. Social Security isn’t dependent on Congress funding the government every year for the most part, so it’s funding won’t run out if a shutdown happens. It does currently run a small deficit though, so if a shutdown goes on for a month or two beneficiaries may see slightly reduced benefits. Even then, those benefits will almost certainly be recouped when the government reopens.
Those who rely on federal welfare or food stamps may see their benefits stop if the shutdown goes on for more than a few weeks but again, the money will start flowing again and Congress may even decide to back-date the benefits.
The same goes for federal workers and the military. Their pay absolutely does depend on annual government funding and they wouldn’t receive paychecks during a shutdown, unless their department had money left over from last year – something that’s pretty unlikely. If the shutdown lasts less than two weeks though, they’ll never even miss a check and if it lasts a month they’ll miss 1-2 checks, but will get back pay when the government reopens.
Getting paid doesn’t mean not working though, and essential security-related personnel like the FBI, CIA, and other necessary departments will keep working regardless, so America can keep sleeping tight.
What about things like research grants or construction projects that depend on federal cash? Well, those programs are given large sums of money when they’re created, so unless they’ve completely run out they’ll never even notice a shutdown. If they have run out, they’ll simply have to wait until the government reopens.
The reality here is that even if a shutdown happens the government isn’t going anywhere. Neither side wants to abolish the government, so while some programs may not be operational for a few weeks, they’ll be back as soon as the Obamacare issue gets resolved. North Korea isn’t going to invade. Texas won’t secede. America won’t turn into a real-life version of “The Postman” or “The Road”.
Your fridge will still keep things cold. Breaking Bad will still be awesome. The World Series and the Superbowl will still be played. Everything will be all right.
Matt Cover is Content Editor at Rare. Follow him on Twitter @MattCover