Government Shutdown 2013: What's In It For You?

A lot of millennials have probably been too busy playing the latest Grand Theft Auto release to notice the contentious budget debate in Washington. In addition to other issues, widespread political apathy among those under 30 is setting our generation up for an impending crisis.

It is becoming increasingly common for college graduates to move back in with their parents to make ends meet. President Obama's inclusion of a provision allowing children under the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance was a reaction to the difficulty many millennials face finding work and access to affordable health care. Disagreements between Democrats and Republicans in Congress have gotten so out of hand that Congress may not be able to fulfill its most basic duties. More specifically, the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is standing in opposition to its own leadership in order to frustrate the implementation of the president's economic and social initiatives. The districts many of the Tea Party's obstructionist representatives come from were created by state politicians elected in the type of political races most young adults ignore. That guy you get mail from every once in awhile telling you to vote for him has more power to influence your daily life than you might realize. Partisan bickering is now threatening to shut down the government, which would make things increasingly more difficult for most millennials the longer it lasts.

Regardless of the impact of delaying action on rising health care costs, forcing a government shutdown for political reasons will have an immediate negative impact on millenials. The shutdown of non-essential government services means delays processing small business and student loans and would further complicate federal hiring. Markets will surely respond as well, further frustrating millennials currently looking for work. Everything from medical research to the processing of passports will be affected, with the health care act at the heart of the current debate ironically continuing to be implemented. A shutdown lasting a day or two will still end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to the other societal costs. Although unlikely, a prolonged shutdown would further hinder a shaky economy still recovering from the effects of a major global economic downturn. This means companies will further delay hiring, with industries receiving government contracts being especially affected.

While hundreds of thousands of government employees prepare for possible unpaid furloughs, members of Congress will still receive their full salaries and benefits throughout the duration of a shutdown. Perhaps not having much skin in the game makes some federal lawmakers more willing to force a shutdown. In some state and local jurisdictions, lawmakers are required to fulfill certain duties in order to be paid or to even eat lunch or leave the chamber. Enacting such measures on the federal level would surely weaken the resolve of some in Congress and increase internal pressure to reach some kind of agreement. In the meantime, it would behoove more younger Americans to start paying more attention to state legislative and gubernatorial elections. The Democratic and Republican parties tend to strategize from the local level on up, with gerrymandering remaining a powerful tool of state governments to influence national policies. Next time you find yourself on frustrated on a Friday morning after a long week of writing cover letters, listen to this song and start reading the local news section.