Throughout October, the decision to extend America’s debt ceiling has left the United States government scrambling to make agreements to avoid a government shutdown.
The issue at hand is centered around October 18th. This is the predicted day in which the United States would run out of money and would be unable to pay its debts. To evade this, Congress could decide to raise the debt ceiling, which is the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow. Increasing this would add to the national debt, but prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debts for the first time in history. The results of these defaults could be catastrophic to the lives of the American people. The U.S. Treasury would have to resort to extraordinary measures to meet their debts, such as missing social security and military payments.
Coinciding with the conflict surrounding the debt ceiling is the start of a new fiscal year for the federal government. At this time, lawmakers must approve a national budget for next year. Therein lies the possibility of a government shutdown: the failure of lawmakers to agree on funding could result in the government suspending all activity until the legislation is passed. The cessation of activity would result in many government employees being furloughed. From park rangers to Homeland Security, to the closure of most federally funded offices and services, such as national museums, many people will be affected.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have the intention of creating a resolution before enacting a shutdown, but disagree on how to do so. Republicans generally disagree with raising the debt ceiling in the national budget, while Democrats are in favor. Both also see the conflict as potentially causing a gain of political influence based on the outcome of the bill, creating an ulterior motive for both parties. Rather than doing what is best for the country as a whole, the parties are protecting their political image for the upcoming 2022 midterm election.
Fear among the American people regarding the possible shutdown is heightened due to the outcome of the one prior. Under the Trump administration, conflict over funding the next fiscal year resulted in the longest government shutdown in history, spanning from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019. The effects were detrimental– over 800,000 government employees missed their first paycheck and were furloughed for its duration. In addition, the economy as a whole experienced around $11 billion in losses, $3 billion of which being permanent. The possibility of a recurrence of this has caused a panic in many Americans.
To prevent this, President Joe Biden signed a bill temporarily funding the government until December 3rd. However, the debt ceiling conflict remains a prominent concern for Congress and awaits a resolution.
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