By Michael Riley
If a UW-Whitewater student has been living under a rock for the past month or is simply confused by the whole government shutdown situation, a brief breakdown will bring anyone up to speed.
A disagreement on the budget between the House of the Representatives and the Senate resulted in a federal government shutdown for the first time in 17 years.
According to the Constitution, Congress is not allowed to spend money until both the House of Representatives and the Senate agree upon a budget.
The House, controlled by the Republicans, passed a spending bill that included steady spending levels for the fiscal year, but did not allow funding for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Once it reached the Senate, however, the bill was denied and sent back to the House. After more debate and disagreement, on midnight Oct. 1 the government went into a shutdown.
So what is shutdown?
One way to explain this is to look at what government money is being spent during the shutdown. In case of a shutdown, some funding continues so the entire country does not go into a financial crisis.
According to information requests made from the Senate Budget Committee and information from the Congressional Budget Office, about 17 percent of the entire federal government is shutdown.
The other 83 percent is a part of the projected 2014 spending, estimated at $3.6 trillion. This means the government will continue to pay for obligated commitments like $225 billion on exempted military and civilian personnel, $2 trillion on entitlement benefits found eligible before the shutdown and $237 billion on interest costs when due.
The budget traditionally is passed before the end of the fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, but the disagreement led to a complete shutdown.
Hitting close to home
Although UW-Whitewater is still functioning the same as it was pre-shutdown, it has not been entirely immune to the situation. With government offices closed and websites offline, effects of the shutdown have trickled down to students.
In Dr. David J. Bashaw’s statistics class, students faced problems acquiring information because of the shutdown.
General business major and junior Abbey Kukulski said if other students in her class had not been doing their research before the shutdown, the chance of finding it now is going to be more difficult.
“We had to create an executive summary on local leading economic indictors over the past ten months, observe the trends and make our own observations and predictions,” Kukulski said. “I was in the library one night trying to finish it, but when I tried accessing the U.S. Census Bureau there was nothing but a page saying all information will be unavailable until further notice.”
Madeleine Walton, chair of the College Republicans, said a government shutdown should have never happened. She said she would have liked the House to hold 10 hours or more of meetings a day to figure out the disagreements, rather than giving up.
“A government shutdown was something I never thought I would witness,” Walton said. “As the chair of a political organization, I didn’t know how this was going to affect me or everyone. I tell my general members to always read the newspaper and spend at least 15 minutes watching the news. The best way students can help themselves is by always staying informed.”
Kenneth Penzkover, chair of the College Democrats, said the shutdown is a product of the political brinkmanship, meaning politicians seek the advantage of any issue by willing to push a situation to dangerous limits rather than concede.
“It is a unique situation,” Penzkover said. “I think it makes the government look indecisive, and it definitely does not present itself as a united front to citizens. I think it is turning off even more young people from politics. It provides more proof to not have trust in the government. Not only is it an ineffective government, but also it now seems to be an incompetent government.”
The biggest consequence of the shutdown is the risk of the U.S. defaulting on its debt.
If resolutions are not made by Oct. 17, the value of the U.S. currency would fall dramatically causing a loss in reserve currency and potentially leading to a multiple year-long world recession.