The U.S. government officially shut down on Sept. 30 after no budget was approved for the foreseeable future.
This is in regards to the government remaining undecided on whether or not they will raise the debt ceiling. Congress has until Oct. 17 to either approve or disapprove a raise in the debt ceiling.
The U.S. Treasury Department explained how the limit for government spending works.
“The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments,” the U.S. Treasury Department said. “The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.”
Currently, the ceiling is at $16.699 trillion according to the British Broadcasting Organization, yet, if it is not raised, the United States will go bankrupt. As a result, the country will be unable to continue functioning as it is now. There will be no room to pay bills, reimburse other countries the United States is indebted to or fund certain programs.
The disagreement about the budget and debt ceiling, which has caused the shutdown, can be boiled down to a disagreement between political parties. The Republican Party will not agree on a budget until certain ideas and wants are reviewed and possibly approved.
Specifically they want the new healthcare bill, known as Obamacare, put off for a year, less environmental restrictions to benefit new oil lines and many other things. Their attempt to get Obamacare stalled for a year has been passed in the House of Representatives, but not in the Senate.
Political science professor, John Lucas, described the problem as a game of chicken.
“I think this is a game of chicken in which the ‘collision’ would be a U.S. default, triggered by failure to raise the debt ceiling,” Lucas said. “The Republicans in the House of Representatives are using the threat of a head on collision (‘default’) to get President Obama to agree to changes in the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’). President Obama argues that on principle the debt ceiling should not be used for this purpose, so he is not going to negotiate. In other words, he is refusing to play chicken; he believes the debt ceiling should be raised without conditions.”
There is no easy answer to when and if the ceiling will be increased or when the government will start up. For now, active duty military, congress and the supreme court will continue to be paid normally along with larger areas like homeland security. But smaller programs like tourism, and a generous amount of government workers, will not be paid until a budget is approved.
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