current affairs

America shuts down: how on earth did this happen?

Written by angusduncan

To say the American Government has a bit of a problem is an understatement. It’s not simple, either.

To say the American Government has a bit of a problem is an understatement. It’s not simple, either.

The budget for the next year (starting today – 2 October) has not been passed by both Congress and the Senate. Due to the system of checks and balances in American politics, both the upper and lower houses of representatives (similar to our own Houses of Lords and Commons) must approve legislation before it can be passed – normally President Obama would be able to overrule, but not in this situation. And therein lies the problem.

If the budget is not approved, then the budget cannot be allocated, so all of America’s government services have (or will have shortly) no money to operate. This means that non-essential services like parks, museums, and national parks have closed indefinitely, with their staff unpaid for the duration. Those services that do need to keep going, like the police, are staying at work – they won’t get paid immediately, however.

How has this stalemate happened?

The lower house (Congress) is controlled by the Republicans – a staunch centre-right party that’s all for interfering in people’s lives as little as possible. It’s no surprise, then, that they’re not fans of President Obama’s new health insurance policy, dubbed ‘Obamacare.’ The policy would make health insurance compulsory for all Americans, meaning that millions previously ineligible for health insurance would get cover. They say that the will only vote in favour of the budget if it is removed.

Meanwhile, the Democrat controlled upper house (Senate) is – unsurprisingly – right behind their president’s revolutionary policy. There’s been much too-ing and fro-ing between the upper and lower houses, but the one constant presence has been the demand to take out Obamacare. This has not happened, and now the deadline has passed.

Where next?

Well, that’s not entirely clear. Obamacare launched today regardless. President Obama said that the Affordable Health Care for America Act was “here to stay.”

Both sides have used the shutdown for a bit of good old political posturing: on the Democrat site, the headline is “THE GOP SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT.”

The Democrats claim “The GOP shut down the government just to make a political point.” Naturally, the GOP counterclaim “(The Democrats) shut down federal government to protect ObamaCare.”

Whilst both sides have plenty to lose, the Republicans are most likely to suffer in the polls – with health care reforms being the only issue that Washington’s politicos are stumbling over, one that’s already been passed into law, it’s hard to disagree with President Obama’s accusations that “They [The Republicans] demanded ransom.”

Public opinion swaying

The polls show that most Americans are against the health care law, but they don’t think it’s worth shutting down for.

A poll by Quinnipiac University found that nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of the American electorate are against the shutdown, despite only 45 per cent of voters supporting healthcare reforms in the first place.

In a statement, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said: “Americans are certainly not in love with Obamacare, but they reject decisively the claim by Congressional Republicans that it is so bad that it’s worth closing down the government to stop it.”

It’s clear that the American public just wants to get on with life as normal, if only there was such a thing to those who represent them.

What do you think of the shutdown of the United States government? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.