(Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
With the fights over the current partial government shutdown and raising the nation's debt limit, America's political leaders are bringing the nation to the brink of ... well ... that depends on who you talk to. As the two sides point the blame at each other, though, there has been much misinformation. Here are four myths you may have heard.
Myth #1: It is a Government Shutdown
The government shutdown is not a government shutdown. It can more accurately be described as a partial government shutdown.
All essential services, and even some non-essential ones, continue. Federal workers, for instance, who are responsible for maintaining health and safety will stay on the job. You may have also noticed that your mailbox has continued to receive mail. And, many federal programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not part of the normal budgeting process and, thus, unaffected.
By a couple of estimates, government spending has remained around 79 to 85 percent of what it was before the shutdown.
Myth #2: The Shutdown Is Not a Big Deal
Some Republicans have tried to downplay the impact of the shutdown. Sarah Palin, for instance, called it a "pin prick." Language like that ignores, though, the many ways the shutdown is hurting people. Those federal employees who remain at work, for instance, are doing so without pay.
Scientific research with government funding has had to stop. Some scientific experiments cannot simply be stopped and restarted. Data must be continually collected. So the shutdown ended these experiments altogether, and wasted the time and investment that was put into them before the shutdown.
Plus, as The Washington Post reported, some cancer patients who were hoping for a National Institutes of Health clinical trial in order to receive a special type of chemo treatment have been put on hold until the shutdown is over.
And lastly, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a program to help poor women with children, ran out of funding on Tuesday. Recipients will be without those benefits until the shutdown ends.
Myth #3: Republicans Have a Strategy
Republicans have no strategy. In fact, they do not even have a goal. Their actions throughout this fight with Obama have been ad-hoc. This is why their tactics change daily as they try to feel their way to some acceptable conclusion to the impasse.
Republicans first said they wanted to defund "Obamacare," then they wanted to delay "Obamacare," then they said they only wanted "fairness" (since the employer mandate is delayed, the individual mandate should be delayed). Now, Speaker of the House John Boehner's latest salvo is that he just wants Obama to sit down and have a conversation with him, but Obama refuses to negotiate.
"All we're asking for is to sit down and have a conversation," Boehner said at a Tuesday press conference. "There's no reason to make it more difficult to bring people to the table. There's no boundaries here, there's nothing on the table, there's nothing off the table. I'm trying to do everything I can to bring people together and have a conversation."
Myth #4: Obama Wants to End It
Since the government shutdown is hurting Republicans more than Democrats, Obama has no incentive to help bring it to an end.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, a senior Obama administration official put it this way: "We are winning. ... It doesn't really matter to us [how long the shutdown lasts] because what matters is the end result."
Though his spokesperson later denied that Obama wants the shutdown to continue. In a Tuesday press conference, Obama did admit that making sure the Republicans look bad is one of his tactics.
When asked why he does not support the smaller spending measures passed by the Republican House, such as for the National Park Service and the National Institutes of Health, Obama answered: "Wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward, and if there's no political heat, if there's no television story on it, then nothing happens. And, if we do some sort of shotgun approach like that, then you'll have some programs that are highly visible get funded and reopened, like national monuments, but things that don't get a lot of attention, like those [Small Business Administration] loans not being funded [during the shutdown]."