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Professors analyze federal shut down

By KAITLYN RABACH | Wednesday, October 2, 2013

 

The U.S. government began to shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday morning after a divide in Congress over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kept the institution from compromising on a budget, therefore, leading to an absence of appropriations, David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, said.

Campbell said the fundamental issue resulting in a shutdown is that members of the Republican Party have taken a stand against the Affordable Care Act and have decided to use what would normally be a routine extension of government financing as a way to try to leverage their power of the purse in order to either stop or delay implementation of the ACA.

“Back in the Clinton administration there was a showdown and the government was shut down,” Campbell said. “The consequence of that was the Republicans suffered quite badly because they were blamed by the public for the shutdown. I expect the same will happen this time.”

Patrick Pierce, professor of political science at Saint Mary’s, credits the shutdown to a growing divide within the Republican Party itself, specifically amongst members in the House. 

“I think the key issue is an intraparty issue within the Republican Party,” Pierce said. “Even further, it is an intraparty issue in the House. The Tea Party Republicans who really want to go to the wall on the Affordable Care Act and do everything they possibly can to eliminate it, are opposed, but not actively opposed by the rest of the party in the institution.

“There is not an out-and-out war going on there, but folks that are more in the mainstream of the Republican Party in the house are certainly very conservative, but they don’t want to go as far as the Tea Party will go.”

The Tea Party is not a formal organization in that some Republicans are officially card-carrying members and others are not, Campbell said. However, he said over the past few election cycles there has been an increasing number of Republicans elected who are father to the right than the members of Congress they have replaced. 

To add to this, Pierce said the big question now is how the Republican Party will deal with this rising division within its entity.

“This has been an ongoing issue just manifested in different ways within the Party for a while now,” Pierce said. “This division within the party got manifested in the 2008 campaign where McCain had to deal with the more extreme right of his party. It then got manifested again in 2012 when Romney has to deal with the extreme right of his party.

“This has got to get resolved or the Republican Party is going to face some real difficulties.”

The shutdown resulted in 800,000 federal employees being furloughed and national parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, being closed down, while essential federal services stayed up and running, Pierce said. 

Uniformed members of the military are included in the list of essential federal government personnel, Pierce said.

“Nobody wants to be seen as harming the military, nobody,” Pierce said. “There is nothing more patriotic than the American military, so you had to figure if there was one group that the Democrats and Republicans could get together on and make sure didn’t get hurt it is going to be the American military.”

Non-essential government personnel were asked to not come to work on Tuesday, affecting workers across the nation, Campbell said.

“It is easy to rail against the federal government without maybe stopping to think about what that really means,” Campbell said. “Even if it is not all government employees affected it is a big chunk of government employees. 

“We think of government employees as only working in Washington, but think about the park rangers up at the Indiana Dunes National Park. Those park rangers aren’t getting paid … This is not just going to affect Washington, this is going to have an effect across the nation.”

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, said he is encouraging Congress to act so his constituents will not continue to be negatively affected by a lack of federal funds. 

“I am concerned about the impact the shutdown will have on the local economy, and urge the House to put an end to this before it hurts South Bend even more,” Buttigieg said. 

Pierce said the furloughs are probably the most acute impact the shutdown with have on students at Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame. 

“My bet is there are a number of students whose parents work for the U.S. government and may end up furloughed and that is a considerable hardship,” Pierce said. “I know of a student at Saint Mary’s whose mother works for the federal government and she was very concerned about the shutdown … There are folks without paychecks and that harms their personal finances.” 

With less available to circulate, Pierce said the shutdown will have a negative effect on the nation’s economy. 

“If you think about it more broadly that means it [the shutdown] hurts the entire economy because now you have less money circulating in the economy,” Pierce said. “That means less money being used to purchase cars, homes, food, and vacations. Those purchases are what drive the economy. 

“That is why President Obama keeps harping on the poor timing of this. It is not as though the economy is rocketing forward just yet, this will slow the economy down, not totally, but it will slow.”

Pierce said in order for President Obama to have an effective presidency, he must stay firm on his decision to not “give in” to the Republicans.

“I think maybe most folks don’t get is that Obama is noticeably more conservative than most of the members of his party in the House and the Senate and they have kind of gone along with him for the most part, but they have been terribly disappointed in the fact that he did cave in on a number of earlier issues,” Pierce said.

Junior Mark Gianfall, president of College Republicans, said he blames partisan politics on the fact the government is currently living “paycheck to paycheck”, but also believes House Republicans were ready to compromise.

“I think in this situation you have Republicans willing to compromise,” Gianfall said. “The bill they passed was to delay Obamacare for a year, not get rid of it completely. The Democrats in the Senate just have too big of an ego to even consider anything like that which is really not something against Obamacare because we are not trying to get rid of it at this point we were trying last night [Monday night] to delay it for one year, so the government could keep working in existence, I guess keep working at its full capacity.”

Junior Sean Long, president of College Democrats, said the 800,000 furloughed employees are often lost in this blame game and they are the ones seeing the direct effects of the bickering currently going on in Washington.

“For me, this whole thing, although I am coming from the democratic perspective, is a mess for us all, Democrats or Republicans,” Long said. “I would call myself a college student before I would call myself a Democrat and this is just horrible to have our lawmakers hold things like annual flu shot vaccinations, the Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition (WIC) program … all of these things are going to be cut. This is so much larger than what a lot of people are making it out to be … It makes me angry.”