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Three Defunding Myths

September 25, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

In less than a week, the continuing resolution (CR) that is currently funding the government will expire, possibly precipitating what one and all refer to as a “government shutdown.” This term is usually uttered in terms that suggest an event falling in severity somewhere between Hurricane Katrina and the zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately, much of the debate surrounding this question has been misleading, if not completely wrong. Among the most frequently repeated myths:

Republicans voted to shut down the government. House Republicans voted this week to fund the government through December. In fact, the CR that Republicans passed would actually increase federal spending by roughly $21 billion over current law. They did include a provision, or rider, prohibiting the use of any money for implementation of Obamacare, but that would have no effect on the rest of government. On the Senate side, one could argue that, if Senator Cruz is successful in his filibuster of the House CR, Republicans should be held responsible for the consequences. On the other hand, if Senate Democrats refuse to pass the House CR, they would be responsible for whatever followed. Regardless, the only bill on the table right now does not shut down the government.

A government shutdown shuts down the government. In reality more of the government is likely to stay open than to close. For example, government activities that have “some reasonable and articulable connection between the function to be performed and the safety of human life or the protection of property” will continue regardless of whether Congress passes a CR. This includes not only such obvious things as military operations and homeland security, but also air-traffic control, health care at Veterans Administration hospitals, law enforcement and criminal investigations, oversight of food and drug safety, nuclear safety, and so forth. In fact, much as we might wish it otherwise, even the IRS would continue to function under such a “shutdown.” Moreover, since entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, are not subject to annual appropriations, they would also continue.

That is not to suggest that a government shutdown is a good thing or that there won’t be some pain involved. Government employees, including the military, won’t get paid on time — although even they will probably receive their pay retroactively once a CR is finally passed. Passport applications will go unprocessed; education and training programs will be suspended; parks and monuments will close; and vendors, including many small …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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