Despite all the doom and gloom rhetoric, the “government shutdown” isn’t actually a government shutdown in the true sense of the term as the vast majority of federal spending is exempt from the budget battles raging in Congress.
“So how much of the government is shutting down? We were surprised when our research department came up with this. Turns out 82 percent of spending is exempt from the shutdown; that includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt,” noted Scott Pelley of the CBS Evening News. “The part subject to the shutdown is only 18%.”
That’s not to say that the stalemate in Washington isn’t having an effect on federal employees, as some 800,000 “non-essential” workers have been furloughed until the funding battle is resolved (you can see a breakdown of the various agencies and departments here). The 1.3 million federal workers deemed “essential” are still on the job.
While we’re hearing stories of visitors being denied access to federal parks, monuments and memorials, this is largely theater. But this is very similar to how the Obama Administration tried to make Americans feel the impact of the sequester cuts. For example, only the most popular sites under National Park Service control have been closed.
There are real world effects of even a partial government shutdown, but it’s likely that non-essential federal workers will get paid once a funding measure has been passed, as has been the case in the past. It’s defeating the narrative being presented by the White House and congressional Democrats that being carried in the media, which thrives on drama, that is the most difficult part of the stalemate.