April 07, 2011

The Coming US Government Shutdown

After the American Century

In another triumph of ideology over practicality, the Republicans are refusing the compromise on the budget, and seem now almost certain to force the United States government into a shutdown. What does this mean, for ordinary people?

For government employees, it means a forced vacation, for which they will be paid later. They may suffer a little bit if they have little cash on hand, but long-term they will be OK, financially speaking. But they will be frustrated knowing that important services are not being provided to the public.

For it is the public that suffers most in such a situation. Anyone who planned to travel to or from the US may be affected, because the passport and visa operations come to a halt. Anyone without a valid passport will just have to stay home. Foreigners, who typically do not apply for a visa to the US until shortly before traveling there, might be able to get a visa, but do not count on it. So the travel industry will be affected.

Suppose, however, that you are a foreign traveler who does get to the US. What will a government shutdown mean? All the national parks will be closed, for one thing, so forget the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and all the others. You can still see Niagara Falls, however, as the best views are from the Canadian side. Virginia's Natural Bridge is privately owned, and therefore will be open. Quite likely all those Washington DC museums will be closed too, but you can still see dinosaurs wandering the halls of Congress, and various human oddities in federal office buildings. 

For a look at really strange evolutionary life forms, however, go by the headquarters of the Republican Party. There you may catch sight of such rarities as homo gingrichiensis, a grubby self-inflating hypocrite that almost became extinct in the 1990s, but has been reconstituted from DNA found in Georgia.

Another politically endangered species, once thought unable to survive in Washington is the candidatus mormonus. Once a polygamous rarity confined to Utah, this creature has been seen as far east as Massachusetts. Moreover, they are hard working and can be trained.

But perhaps the most interesting new life form on view at the Republican National Headquarters is a species of rodent that scientists have discovered subsists primarily on tea. These creatures are definitely worth seeing, but caution is advised as they can be extremely aggressive. Do not be deceived into assuming they are harmless by their careful grooming. A particularly venomous variety carries the Bachmann worm, which attacks the brain, and if not treated in time leads to imbecility.

Despite the possible shutdown of the US government, in short, there are still rare sights to be seen in Washington, even if the museums and parks will likely be closed.