On Oct. 1, the United States government effectively shut down, following Congress’ inability to pass a spending bill for the 2014 fiscal year.
The current government shutdown comes on the heels of bipartisan haggling over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — commonly referred to as Obamacare — signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
Though PPACA was signed into law over three years ago, House of Representative Republicans, which make up the majority of the House, have been relentless in absolving the act since its inception, insistent that providing healthcare for all citizens takes away from employers and sends jobs overseas. House Republicans tacked on provisions to the spending bill bent on weakening PPACA, a move which Senate Democrats refused to let pass.
Due to the incessant volleying of the spending bill between the House and the Senate — each contingent on their own views of the PPACA — a spending bill was not passed, halting the normal timeline of government procedures for the fiscal year.
This ultimately leaves the United States in a lurch. Without the bill, a number of essential government programs and agencies are ineffective. For one, in light of this indecision over health care, the National Institutes of Health have stopped taking new patients for clinicals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will halt its seasonal flu program. Other programs affected by the shutdown include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Park Service, the Veterans Benefit Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, just to name a few.
Amid bipartisan turmoil and the subsequent shutdown, the U.S. no longer serves as an exemplary figure of diplomacy and democracy. Whereas the U.S. executives see government shutdown as a solution, no other country in the world sees this response as a plausible answer to any conflict. Even in the most dire times including periods of civil war, coups and an inability to elect a government, nations such as Syria, Colombia, Belgium and Pakistan have not resorted to a government shutdown. Deferring to this dramatic measure so easily and placidly, the United States has exposed its willingness to leave the nation stranded, employing a tactic that no other nation would even regard as an option.
The pettiness of the U.S. government is self-evident through the use of the spending bill — a basic part of Congress’s job and something people fundamentally need — as a means for party bickering. Rather than focus on the needs of the people and use the spending bill as a helpful tool, Congress takes this opportunity to divide the country and re-hash old issues.
With House Republicans refusing to fund Obamacare and Senate Democrats not tolerating the fiscal budget as a tool to demolish PPACA, countless programs have indefinitely evaporated. Neither Democrats nor Republicans proves right in this situation. Both parties hold responsibility for allowing a long standing feud to overflow into the lives of unassuming Americans.
While health care should be an ongoing conversation in this country, it is not a conversation that should disrupt the ebb and flow of our nation’s most fundamental agencies. With the government shutdown barrelling into its second week, as a nation we should truly take stock of these elected, paid officials, abdicating one of their most basic tasks in the pursuit of self-interest. If Congress’ lack of concern for their citizens says anything for us as a nation, it’s time to seriously reevaluate electing officials who blatantly ignore the U.S. people and their needs.