“If Republicans want to shut down Washington, they’ll have to ask China’s permission first”.
This was the headline of a Forbes magazine article I saw on 29 September, just two days before the US partial government shutdown began.
China, Japan, and some other nations - like the Caribbean banking centres, and Arab oil exporters - are major foreign holders of US treasury securities.
These nations have nothing to do with the ongoing ‘Obamacare’ tussle, inside US, between Democrats and Republicans. But they have, obviously, a strong interest in preserving America’s basic financial, economic, and social stability.
According to the Forbes article, if these creditor nations were to sell just a small proportion of their American assets – of course, we know, they won’t do it so quickly – they could send Wall Street into a dizzying tailspin. It could have nasty implications to the net worth of many Republicans, while throwing some countries’ economies completely off balance.
With the partial government shutdown that began on Oct 1, we see that almost a million “non-essential” United States government employees are now officially ‘furloughed’.
It means they are not going to work. And they are not getting paid. And the longer this goes on, the longer the people will suffer. And so does the US economy.
Most of the US national parks and monuments are now closed. Government offices are not offering services or picking-up calls. And I even heard that – ridiculous as it sounds – government paid contract-priests could be arrested if they perform mass in Catholic assemblies.
In an op-ed (Opinion Editorial) of October 3, John Schlageter, General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), disclosed that non-active duty Catholic priests have been ordered not to work—or even volunteer—on military installations for the duration of the shutdown. That would have meant no masses on Sunday in places where only contract-priests were available. And also no scheduled baptisms and other ceremonies.
Thankfully, however, the United States House of Representatives, on Friday Oct 4, voted 400-1 to pass House Concurrent Resolution 58 calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to allow the continued performance of religious services on military installations during the government shutdown. The resolution was introduced by Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) as a response to that Op-Ed by John Schlageter.
So, we can see that logic and rationality is being tested to its utmost now. As both sides of US Government are still at loggerheads, with neither wanting to budge, no one seems to know when the end will come.
But it all began when all the elected US Congressmen – Democrats and Republicans – were unable to come to an agreement on government’s budget of expenditure by the set-deadline of 30 September.
The non-approval of the budget forced the Democrat President Obama and his government into announcing the government shut-down.
Tea Party Republicans had demanded that the six week budget stopgap bill (known as a continuing resolution) include some provisional defunding or delaying of the funding of the Affordable Care Act ( ObamaCare), which they claim a vast majority of public opposes.
Obama and Senate Democrats insisted, however, that no policy riders of any sort be attached to a temporary funding resolution; because they reiterated that ObamaCare is ‘settled law’ – passed by Congress, upheld by Supreme Court, and reaffirmed by Obama’s 2012 re-election.
Thus came the financial grid-lock. And with the grid-lock, still intact for almost a week now, since it started, the near future looks worrisome. And we have been exposed to the sad truth that egos and public interest can become a deadly concoction in the minds of the lawmakers.
I found, from some writers like Howard Gleckman, that if not quickly sorted out, this government shutdown could lead to yet another dangerous trend in politics.
It is this: If the president cracks under the pressure, lawmakers on both sides will learn one simple lesson: You get what you want by forcing a government shutdown. And, it may happen again and again. That, I believe, would be a bigger tragedy looming up ahead.
Governments could be held hostage by opposition parties, or the opposition parties could be held hostage by the government – just to make sure that their ‘will be done’.
And if government-shutdowns become the new normal, then God save the Economies.