Friday, October 4, 2013

On the Shutdown

If you've been under a rock for the last three days, let me let you in on a little secret: the government shut down.
Have you tried turning your government off and back on again?

It's all been very exciting and such, what with people worrying about what it means for the progression of our country.  But I'm getting kind of tired of hearing people (namely, Fox News people) say that no one has really been affected.

First and foremost, we look like a laughing stock.  One of Congress's big jobs is to approve a budget.  In fact, it's pretty much their biggest job.  People forget the power that money has -- setting a budget essentially sets the priorities for the next year.  The fact that political tensions have gotten so high that Congress can't perform its fundamental function speaks volumes about the general illegitimacy of the U.S. system right now.

Contingent Consent.  Maybe you've heard of it.  Chances are you probably haven't.  Contingent consent is a necessary piece in a functional and competitive democratic state.  It's the idea that you will win some elections and lose others, and that whichever side (or sides) loses will agree to live under the laws and rules of the side that won -- with the understanding that in the next election, you have the ability to unseat the other party if you don't like what they've done.

The only way to preserve rule of law under a democratic system is the acceptance of this idea of contingent consent -- the system can't function if you play by the "I lost, so I'm taking my toys and going home" mentality.  Which is exactly what we've got going right now.

Aside from the general "the reputation of the United States as a whole is at stake (compounded with the PRISM fiasco, the invasion of sovereign borders, several unnecessary wars, growing distrust of the U.S. and the West, etc)" issue, there are people being affected.  A friend of mine can't work on his thesis because he can't access the Library of Congress or the National Archives.  Many women and children who receive federal WIC funding will not receive their stipend in time if this isn't sorted out.  National Parks, federal funding for public education, GDP, "nonessential" federal employees, and more all stand to lose out if this shutdown and budget crisis aren't dealt with immediately.

The fact that you got your mail like always today doesn't mean that people aren't hurting.


Frustratedly yours,
Rachel Leigh

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