The U.S. government has entered a partial shutdown following Congress’ failure to agree on budget legislation last week.
The Democrat-controlled Senate is insisting that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) must not be amended, while the House Republicans refuse to pass a fiscal law as long as Obamacare remains unchanged.
Since then, any agency or employee deemed “non-essential” by the government has been placed on furlough, and only “essential employees” will remain on the job.
This means that many federal agencies have mandatorily closed their doors because of the defunding, and even more will close in a few weeks when user-fees or private support runs out.
According to ABC News, the Department of Homeland Security has sent 31,295 employees home, and the Department of the Interior furloughed 58,765. The Department of Labor and Department of Justice are running on 18 percent and 15 percent employment, respectively, having furloughed 110,094 employees total.
The former are just a few statistics representative of the 800,000-plus government employees suffering from Congress’ indecision. Government-funded parks, such as the Joshua Tree National Park and the Grand Canyon, are closing to the public, and much of the FDA’s food inspection will be placed on hold. Patients are even being turned away at the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health.
Now, it’s time for the real question: How much of this did you already know? If you were aware of the shutdown, could you have explained why it’s taking place?
Perhaps you’ve read some headlines about the closure of national parks or noticed a growing number of political cartoons about the woes of Congress. Most people don’t even realize the true gravity of our situation: cancer patients are being denied treatment, health clinics aren’t accepting patients, and “essential” air traffic controllers, currently working without pay, can only hope that they will be paid retroactively once a fiscal plan is in place.
We often fall into the habit of forgetting about the world and continuing on with our heads down, and it isn’t difficult to get caught up in our college society of classes, grades and popularity. While immersing oneself in university culture has many benefits, we often forget about our real society with real problems calling for our attention and prayers.
We can’t afford to turn a blind eye toward the issues in our country. Responsible citizens don’t complain about national policy without doing proper research, they don’t passively sit back and pretend that nothing is wrong, and they don’t rely only on Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart for their news.
The German poet Johann Goethe once said, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” We’ve seen the damage an ignorant population can cause. Let’s not contribute to it.