Now that the government shutdown has come to its inevitable end, political handicappers are going to pick through the pieces to determine who were winners and losers throughout the whole debacle. Although most agree, that the American people were some of the biggest losers of the bunch. This may be true, but not for the reasons you think.
The government shutdown was not a total shutdown, as evidenced by the outrage that followed the revelation that members of Congress would be amongst those still getting paychecks, while hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed, fraught with how to make ends meet. Who stayed and who left was determined by labeling agencies and workers as “essential” and “non-essential.” In a report from members of the non-partisan National Priorities Project, there is a clear trend about the types of agencies that were shut down and those that were deemed essential.
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National security, as always, was at the top of the list. The NSA’s intelligence-gathering operation continued to operate unabated by either the shutdown or the ever-deepening scandal about the reach of their electronic surveillance. Also, the military was prioritized, with Congress passing a bill to ensure they were paid and two high-profile operations to capture terrorists were conducted, signaling to world that “the [US] military wasn’t about to shut off the lights.”
Federal programs in Arkansas and North Carolina did not have the funds to issue vouchers for infant formula and food that many working parents count on to keep their children healthy. Domestic abuse shelters were unable to fulfill their missions for lack of funding. Also, children were turned away from Head Start programs, also deemed non-essential. When we hear “women and children first,” we don’t often think of that as a bad thing, however in this case it was.