By Sam Simon
The latest government shutdown has ended. But other crises loom in the future, so an examination of what happened while OWU had its fall break is interesting both in review and in a likely preview of things to come.
The current situation with partisan politicians testing the limits of their power is not unique. Beginning in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the government was shut down 18 times in 19 years with the debt limits and budgets at the center of these disputes.
The most recent shutdown debate was centered on the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Republican legislators would not pass a federal budget agreement without restriction or repeal of the healthcare law.
“Elections have consequences,” said Joan McLean, professor of politics and government. “Laws have consequences. Putting the United State’s full faith and credit in play in order to pursue an agenda is not what the authors of the Constitution would consider proper use of power.”
Federal government employees were primarily affected by the government shutdown.
Senior Zoey Kramer’s uncle works in the Department of Justice’s office of attorney recruitment and is president of DOJ Pride, an organization for LGBT employees. During the shutdown he did not work and was not paid.
In the last shutdown in 1995 he was similarly furloughed.
Senior Jordan Alexander’s parents both work for the Department of Defense in a military installation in San Antonio, Texas. While neither was paid, both continued to work during the shutdown.
Students in general are affected by the cessation of various services. Ohio Wesleyan librarian Joy Gao said government websites and online government document resources OWU students and faculty use for research were shut down. Researchers could still access Beeghly Library’s print collection of government documents.
Gao said during the shutdown, there was no shipment of printed government documents from the Government Printing Office (GPO) to depository libraries like Beeghly.
She also said some government websites were completely shut down. Others were still accessible, but the contents had not been updated. The Census Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sites were all non-functional.
Gao found that some students were unable to complete their school assignments in a timely manner because of the shutdown. Some students were asked to find imports and exports data on the Census Bureau website for a class assignment.
“Of course, with the shutdown, they were not able to do it,” she said. “However, we were able to help them find the data in Statistical Abstract of the United States, which is a database we subscribe to.”
The shutdown ended Oct. 16, as McLean predicted just before the date economists said the federal government would run out of cash to pay its debts, necessitating a raising of the debt ceiling in order to borrow more money.
The vote in the House was 285-144 and 81-18 in the Senate. The government shutdown immediately ended and government employees returned to work on Thursday, Oct. 17.
The deal makes no substantive changes to the Affordable Care Act, and provides a rise in the debt ceiling that economists believe should provide adequate funding until Feb. 7, 2014.
One measure that has been discussed in the media and amongst political pundits is secion four of the 14th Amendment, adopted to reassure foreign countries that despite U.S. involvement in war, the country would continue to honor its debt.
This has raised the question if the President can sidestep Congress and raise the debt ceiling with the executive branch.
McLean said she thinks this would never occur under present circumstances, as the President must “weigh his decisions on such matters for both the long and short term.”
She said a Supreme Court case would be needed to interpret the current circumstances as necessary to employ such measures, but Obama would most likely understand that such executive overreach on his part might be destructive to the country in the long term.