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The government shuts down

by MEGAN ROMANCZUK Section Editor

The United States government entered a shutdown on October 1, forcing millions of federal workers to be sent home without pay.

Another bargaining chip in the budget proposal is deciding on a short-term raise for the debt ceiling for the following year. Republicans are considering a proposal to raise the debt ceiling for another six weeks. The deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling is October 17, 2013.

The government shutdown started to become serious when Congress could not decide on a new spending bill, which included getting rid of Obamacare. Most government functions, such as funding agencies paying out small business loans or passport requests, are put on hold. However, Social Security, air traffic control, and military pay will continue to be funded.

Obamacare is involved with the government shutdown because the health care laws do not have to be included in the funding of the government, and in this case, Obamacare is used as a decoy. A group of Republicans, led by freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas, believes the president’s domestic policy can hurt the country so badly that the government had to go into a shutdown.

The Democrats think differently; they think the law will expand access to health care and help rising costs of coverage. Obamacare prevents those with past medical conditions from being denied insurance. Also, the people who do have health care will no longer have to indirectly pay for the people who show up in emergency rooms uninsured.

In addition to defunding Obamacare, Republicans want a compromise on raising the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling limits the amount of money the Treasury can issue to pay its bills. Without raising the debt ceiling, the United States would default on its loans, which could lead to catastrophic effects on our economy.

Raising the debt ceiling does not increase the debt of our country. It simply allows the Treasury to pay back any money it owes. The debt ceiling has been raised by Congress 78 times since 1960, the last time being in the summer of 2011. Similar to last time, the Republicans are using the debt ceiling as leverage to cut federal spending, and as a bargaining chip in ending the government shutdown.

The partial government shutdown had a huge effect on the national parks. Before the shutdown, national parks would have an average of 715,000 visitors each day in October 2012. An estimated $76 million is lost per day from people not visiting national parks based on the average in October 2012. And estimated $450,000 is lost in revenue per day from entrance fees and in-park activities.

Almost 87 percent of of the National Park services, which contains 24,645 employees, have been sent home during the shutdown.

The top three parks that are feeling the biggest impact:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 257,534 lost visitors in first 10 days and $23.1 million lost visitor dollars.

  2. Grand Canyon National Park: 120,000 lost visitors in first 10 days and $11.8 million lost visitor dollars.

  3. Yosemite National Park: 106,849 lost visitors in first 10 days and $10 million lost visitor dollars.

Since many of these cherished parks have been closed for several days, people are now jumping the closed gates or removing cones to illegally enter the parks. Those who have been caught can face up to six months in jail.

Governors in at least four states have already asked for authority to reopen national parks because of the economic impact. The Obama administration said that soon states will be able to use their own money to reopen national parks that were forced to close.

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