Photograph of a goat by Flickr user elPadawan
It’s been two whole days since the US federal government closed down all “nonessential” functions thanks to an extraordinarily stupid intra-Republican fight over defunding Obamacare. Currently, Speaker of the House John Boehner is trying to negotiate not just an end to the shutdown and the raising of the debt ceiling, but also a “grand bargain,” the long-sought-after, practically mythical deal in which Democrats agree to spending cuts in exchange for the GOP agreeing to increased revenue (a.k.a. tax increases). Some House Republicans now just want to get the government running again, and would presumably be willing to get together with their Democratic colleagues to get that done, but Boehner won’t allow that for fear of his party’s ultraconservative Tea Party wing.
Meanwhile, the government is supposedly closed, though if you’re not among the 800,000 furloughed federal workers you might not even have noticed. National Parks across the country have closed, NASA has shut down operations, and a bunch of government websites went dark—but mail is still getting delivered, the military is still getting paid, and city services in Washington, DC, which were rumored to stop during the shutdown, are humming along (for now). Heck, the Army and Navy college football teams are playing this week. It turns out that a whole bunch of government functions are “essential.”
The shutdown of nonessential functions did hurt people, however, often in ways that aren’t readily apparent. Here are a few people and groups suffering thanks to Congressional deadlock:
Kids with Cancer
We’ll start off with the most fucked. The National Institute of Health had to furlough 75 percent of its employees as a result of the shutdown, and that means they can’t conduct new clinical trials to test new cancer treatment—which in turn means that patients, including children and even children with cancer, won’t be getting medicine that could potentially help them. “For every week that the government shutdown continues, ten children with cancer will not be able to begin their clinical trials” is how ABC News put it. Jesus Christ.
(Realizing how awful this is, House Republicans attempted to pass a bill that would fund the NIH along with bills that would fund other individual federal agencies, but the Democrats shut this approach down, saying, in essence, “You ding-dongs don't get to pick and choose which parts of the government stay open. Just fund the whole dang thing!”)
This is a 63-year-old woman who went missing while on a hike in the Craters of the Moon National Preserve in Idaho. She and her hiking partner, Amy Linkert, disappeared on September 23 and Linkert’s body was found two days later, but there’s been no sign of Elliott-Blakeslee. Initially, 70 government employees were assigned to the search, along with dog teams and helicopters, but thanks to furloughs there are only ten park rangers looking for her. At this point, she’s likely not alive, but it’s pretty ghoulish to imagine a search like that being abandoned because a few dozen Republican representatives are committed to protesting against Obamacare.
Some Eighth-Graders from Ohio
Twenty-seven students at St. Agatha Catholic School in Columbus, Ohio, made a trip to DC this week—a trip they raised $14,000 for—only to find out that a lot of the museums and monuments they planned to visit were closed thanks to the shutdown. Instead of the Smithsonian, the kids have to go to lamer, privately owned historical sites, like the home of George Washington, where a tour guide will be all like, “Hey, George Washington had some slaves and grew hemp… here’s his wooden teeth. I know, it’s not that great.” Similar class trips are going to run into the same problems. One parent told the Columbus Dispatch that the kids were “learning about politics this week more than ever.” :(
People Who Want to Get Married in DC
While most city services in the nation’s capital are still operational, the marriage bureau
has been shuttered. That’s too bad, because thanks to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act, a lot of gay people were getting hitched—now they have to wait longer for something they’d already waited a long time for. Photograph of a burro by Flickr user -fabio-
People Who Want to Adopt Wild Horses and Burros
You want a burro? I bet you do because burros are awesome as shit. Too bad the Bureau of Land Management is pretty much closed.
Small Businesses Near National Parks
Sooner or later, the National Parks will open again, their employees will go back to work, and the retired people who live in RVs and spend their days traveling from scenic vista to scenic vista will once again be able to stand in front of some impressive shit. But for the tour guides, souvenir stands, motels, and others who depend on revenue from those retired people and other National Parks visitors, the closure is a disaster. Losing thousands of dollars in revenue is a big deal for these small businesses, and some of them depend on lots of tourists showing up in October to make it through the usually slow winter season.
People with Tickets to Ford’s Theatre
The historic playhouse—you know, where Lincoln got shot—is operated by a nonprofit organization, but because it’s on land managed by the National Parks Service, it’s had to cancel performances of The Laramie Project, the play about Matthew Shepard’s life and murder. The theater says it’ll be in touch with people who had their evening plans ruined by an unfeeling government.
Goats That Love Poison Ivy
Twenty-eight goats who had been “fat and happy” while eating delicious poison ivy at National Parks site in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, had to be removed in advance of the park closing. According to USA Today, all the park rangers and everyone who visited the historic Fort Hancock mortar battery adored the goats—obviously, because goats are awesome—who were brought in to eradicate a plague of the nasty plant. Now the goats have been taken away from the plant they loved and the people who loved them.
Canadians and the British
So far, global financial markets have been nervous about the shutdown, but are mostly confident that Congress won’t allow it to go on for too much longer—investors are much more worried about the prospect of the debt ceiling not being raised, which would quickly cause the US to default on its debts. But if the shutdown lasts for more than a week, there’s concern that the economy could start dragging, and experts worry that that would pull the economies of Canada and the UK, which are only now coming out of the global recession, down with it. “Americans sneeze and Brits catch the flu,” is how British economist David Blanchflower put it. And if Congress can’t get its shit together, America is going to be puking all over the world economy.