With the Democrats looking determined to keep the government shutdown going until President Trump gives up his ambition to secure our border with Mexico, and the president equally determined to put an end to illegal immigration, a lot of people are wondering exactly what a shutdown means. After all, the federal government pays for a lot of things. Will social security payments be frozen? Is our military going without pay until this is resolved? Will NASA run out of money to maintain the GPS satellites? How bad is this going to be?
Well, maybe not that bad. Yes, a shutdown freezes a lot of federal spending, but plenty more is protected. Let’s have a look at what our government will still be spending while the shutdown continues.
- Social security payments won’t be affected. Social security is a mandatory spending program, and it isn’t going to be affected by a shutdown. Those checks will still be going in the post for the nation’s retirees.
- Medicare won’t suffer, either. It’s also a mandatory spending program, and it will keep running through the shutdown. How do we know this? Because, like social security, it’s kept running through every government shutdown and this is only a partial shutdown.
- We won’t default on our national debt. A government shutdown only affects discretionary payments – money the government can choose to spend, or not. Debt interest doesn’t come under that heading, as anyone with a credit card knows.
- Most government employees are still going to get paid. The reality is that even with the shutdown in progress, three-quarters of federal spending for 2019 has already been funded. Most of the major departments have been given their budgets already, so they can keep on paying their staff regardless.
- That includes the Pentagon. The defense budget for 2019 has been funded already, so when payday comes for our troops, the DoD has the money to pay them with. We’re not going to end up like Russia in 1991, with unit commanders selling the latest tanks to British intelligence so they could buy food for their men.
- A few departments haven’t been funded yet. Mostly that’s Homeland Security, the treasury and the State Department. Theoretically, their 800,000 staff could be sent home from work until the shutdown ends – but only if they’re not classed as essential, and 450,000 of them are.
- The remaining 350,000 can be placed on furlough if their departments can’t find the money to pay them. That can cause short-term hardship, but in the past, Congress has passed legislation to compensate anyone who was furloughed during a shutdown.
So that’s the real story. Shutdown or not, our government will keep right on spending vast amounts of money. Luckily, as well as the usual enormous waste, this spending will cover all the stuff that’s actually important.