Four more days before the government runs out of money

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Barring an extension, there are four more legislative days in the House of Representatives before the fiscal year ends, and large parts of the federal government run out of money to operate.

When the federal government lacks funds, as happened twice in the mid 1990s, Americans die. Not necessarily immediately, and not because many social net programs are affected by shutdowns; even in the event of a government shutdown of the nature that many congressional Republicans want to provoke, the Social Security Administration would still send out checks.

But, here are some of the things the Congressional Research Service notes (.pdf) that happened the last time when Congress refused to treat governance seriously and defunded the federal government out of pique that its extremist agenda wasn't immediately enacted:

  • New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health clinical center; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ceased disease surveillance; and hotline calls to NIH concerning diseases were not answered.
  • Multiple services form veterans were curtailed, ranging from health and welfare to finance and travel.
  • Cancellation of the recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials reportedly occurred, including the hiring of 400 border patrol agents; and delinquent child-support cases were delayed.

In short, individuals suffer during a shutdown. We become less healthy and less protected. There's a misperception among some that anyone whose well-being requires federal support is a moocher. What the effects of an actual showdown show is how all Americans lives benefit from the continued operation of the federal government. What individual is so self-reliant that he'll turn down medicine derived from federal research? Are veterans moochers? How about children in need of courts' protection?

Some members of the Senate and House see refusing to vote for a clean continuing resolution as a matter of ideological purity. They'd rather shut down federal agencies than let the Affordable Care Act take further effect. "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" they say, or a more recent variation of that decades' old justification for nihilism. It might sound good, but it's deadly wrong when measured in actual, human costs. - Dave