The media is dramatically reporting that the federal government shut down on October 1 - yet hardly anyone has noticed. This is because it is not really a “government shutdown.” If only a few non-essential government functions have been temporarily halted, it is misleading to characterize it as if the entire government has shut down.
Congress came to an impasse on passing a budget last week, which left it up to the Obama administration as the executive branch to pick and choose which federal government programs to temporarily shut down as negotiations continue. Taking a cue from the government shutdowns of 1995-96, Obama knows which parts of government to shut down in order to ensure that Republicans again receive the blame. He’s left in place the parts of government that people really need, like the military, federal prisons, the Post Office, operating the power grid, guarding federal property and mailing out Social Security checks. He’s shut down the parks, museums and national monuments, because that will affect Americans’ vacations. Having their vacations ruined is not enough to really hurt people, but it’s enough to irritate them.
Obama furloughed 800,000 non-essential government employees out of 2.5 million federal civilian employees. He knows this sounds appalling to average Americans, who are struggling to make a living in the Obama economy. Wonder why there hasn’t been a peep from the federal employees’ unions? Obama is well aware that most of the media, which is in the tank for him, will not report that the “furloughs” are nothing more than extra free vacations. After previous government shutdowns, federal employees who were furloughed were retroactively paid. Sure enough, the House passed a bill on October 5 granting retroactive pay for the furloughed employees, which the Senate and Obama are expected to approve.
There have been 17 government shutdowns in the past. Congress has not passed a proper budget on time since 1997. Since then, the same impasse repeats itself when it comes to passing an annual budget. The Democrats always demand more authorization to borrow money, and the Republicans always demand significant budget cuts. Each time after tough negotiations, Congress ends up passing a temporary, stop-gap continuing resolution instead of a full appropriations bill, authorizing a budget for another six months or so.