A Government Shut Down, One Way or the Other

The 2011 budget has turned into a game of hot potato. With a short-term extension of the current budget increasingly unlikely, it appears as though those holding the decisionmaking authority on March 4 at 11:59 pm, when the current continuing resolution expires, will be forced to make an unpopular decision: passing draconian Republican cuts or forcing the government to shut down.

But while the expiration of the continuing resolution would literally close the government – sending employees home and halting their pay – Republican budget cuts would effectively achieve the same end, especially in areas of environmental protection, consumer health, and worker safety.

  • The Republican plan would cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by about $3 billion, almost 30 percent. Of course, it wouldn’t matter all that much, as lawmakers have loaded the bill with so many riders prohibiting EPA from setting standards for carbon pollution and a variety of other pollutants that the agency won’t have much of a workload left.
  • The budget would return the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to 2008 levels, when it employed 235 fewer inspectors and other staffers than it does now. This budget cut is particularly perverse: Under federal law, slaughterhouses cannot process or package meat without USDA approval. Without a sufficient inspectorate, slaughterhouses may have to reduce production or shut down, putting non-government employees out of work and raising meat prices for consumers.
  • The budget would slash funding at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by $99 million – almost 20 percent – requiring the agency to layoff inspectors and halt or slow investigations of workplace accidents and fatalities. 

Those represent just a few of the cuts to programs necessary to protect the public. In the aggregate, they would create a government that is, for all intents and purposes, shut down.

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