In the wake of the first government shutdown in nearly two decades, pundits clamor to provide commentary on both the causes and effects of the failure to pass a budget, funding nonessential government functions. Some argue that the shutdown is unremarkable; it has happened before and its effects are limited. As Sean Hannity claims, “We have had 17 government shutdowns…I am not afraid of a couple of weeks of the government being shut down.”
Yet, as Brad Plummer illustrates on the Washington Post Wonkblog, the hiatus of so-called nonessential government offices will affect the lives of American citizens more profoundly than Hannity’s remark portrays. Effects range from the mundane to the inconvenient: the suspension of the Panda Cam broadcast at the National Zoo, the blockade of national parks and monuments, and the closure of the U.S. Copyright Office until the end of the standoff.
Some Americans will experience the shutdown more acutely than others, especially government employees who will go without pay, veterans and disabled persons who will go without benefits, and cancer patients who will be denied access to critical services from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Still, there are some for whom the shutdown will have an almost immediate and deleterious effect: poor families and children.
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