Over the past week the US government has been trying to come to a conclusion about how much budget cost they are going to make for the 2011- 2012 fiscal year. Republican leaders in the House and Democratic leaders in the Senate have been working toward a budget cut of $33 billion, but House Speaker John Boehner is seeking to cut as much as $40 billion. Without an agreement our government is at risk of closure. Many of the most immediate effects of a shutdown would be felt in Washington, where the Smithsonian museums and other tourist sites would close, keeping as many as 500,000 visitors locked out of the city’s main attractions. If the impasse continues until Monday, a slew of other services would be halted, including the processing of tax refunds.

In the event of a shutdown, the federal government does not actually stop functioning entirely: activities and employees deemed “essential” to keeping the nation safe and operational continue to perform. Congress, along with President Obama, presidential appointees and specific judicial employees, are deemed “essential” and not subject to furlough. Even those excepted federal employees, however, do not get paid until after the government resumes operations. According to a senior administration official who spoke to reporters in a Wednesday conference call, about 800,000 employees were affected by the shutdown in the government shutdown of 1995 – and a similar number of workers would likely be impacted were the government to close this week.

Government services

 Social Security: Social Security recipients would be largely unaffected by a shutdown, according to the administration official. Checks for seniors, those with disabilities, and survivors would go out as usual. But Social Security Administration employees could face furloughs, but the agency is still finalizing its plan.

  •  Homeland Security: Critical functions, like border control, would continue.
  • Mail delivery: The U.S. Postal Service is owned by the government but self-funded – so operations would continue uninterrupted.
  • Air traffic control: As a function of maintaining public safety, Air traffic control would be exempt from a shutdown.
  • Food inspection: Meat and poultry testing would likely continue, in accordance with federal mandates that those activities deemed “essential to ensure continued public health or safety” continue.
  • National parks and monuments: As the New York Times puts it, “The National Zoo would close, but the lions and tigers would get fed.” National parks and museums, including those on the National Mall, like the Smithsonian, would shut down – just in time for spring break.
  • Passport operations: All operations would be likely suspended, except for in cases of emergency.
  • International Revenue Services (IRS): The IRs would close, but the April tax deadline would stay in place – so Americans would still have to pay their taxes on time. But according to the senior administration official, the processing of paper tax returns (which accounts for about 30 percent of all returns) would be suspended – as would refunds associated with those returns.
  •  The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA, which is dedicated to supporting small businesses, would suspend approval of applications for business loan guarantees, as well as direct loans to small businesses.
  • The Federal Housing Association (FHA): The FHA would be forced to suspend approvals for new loan guarantees during peak home-buying season, according to the administration official.
  • Medicare: According to the administration official, Medicare is funded for the short-term – and would likely remain unaffected unless the government were to remain closed for a period of months or more. NIH, however, will not be able to accept new patients or begin new clinical trial.

Whether or or not this actually occurs this is a serious problem. Not only for all the people who could possibly be without pay but its a sign that our government is not where it needs to be. When a government is not on the same page over such a serious topic as this then we have no place to be helping other countries stablize their government when ours isnt stable itself.