US Shutdown: Would Crimes Be Rampant?

The US government is on a shutdown. Following the end of the financial year on September 20, a new budget for the 2014 financial year could not be established. The Congress, meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate could not agree on an approved budget. Without such a proposed and approved budget, the US government is left with no choice but to close non-essential offices and put on leave non-essential staff.

The contention lies in the divisive Obamacare issue. Obama’s Affordable Care Act aims at reforming America’s healthcare industry, a move not completely supported by the Republican-heavy House of Representatives. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have continuously proposed cuts to Obamacare which thereby delayed its legislation. The Senate, on the other hand, is controlled by Obama’s Democrats and have been resilient in their support of Obamacare. The opposing stance on the Act have caused dispute in the budget formation and has now lead to the shutdown.

In the shutdown, non-essential offices and staff are put on hold. This means that government operated offices that do not play a significant role in the progression of the function of the government and the country are shut down for a while. This will include national museums and national parks such as the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz and the Yosemite National Park. At the same time, federal employees working in such offices are temporarily put on an unpaid leave. Since their offices are closed, they will not work for the time until the shutdown is resolved. Surprisingly, they are expected to take the full blow of the shutdown by losing income for a significant (and uncertain) amount of time. The shutdown, however, does not affect essential offices. Social security and the US military service are to continue with their work.

Would crimes be rampant? The direct effects of the shutdown (closing of non-essential offices, unpaid leave for staff) will manifest in the US’ economy; the possibility of an increase in crime incidents may be an externality of this nationwide economic disorder. First, tourism is greatly affected. The closing of parks and museums may seem trivial, but the adverse effects it has on tourists who were locked out of parks and museums may be catastrophic. Revenues are lost in the shutdown, possible money flowing into the country through people from all over the world wanting to visit tourists spots are put on hold. Second, the staff and employees who were put on unpaid leave lose a portion of their purchasing power for the time that they do not earn anything. As they are on unpaid leave, they will obviously not earn money and will thereby have lower (or no) income to spend. Aside from its microeconomic effects: people not being able to afford what they need, macroeconomic consequences of this unpaid leave may occur. A portion of the GDP is composed of the population’s expenses; meaning, the goods consumed by the entire country. With a significant portion of the country having lower purchasing power, the goods consumed nationwide may decrease which will advertently affect the GDP. The US economy, unstable as it is, may experience more hits with this shutdown. So where is the possibility of increased crime incidents in this scenario?

Crimes (such as theft and robbery) are propelled by scarcity of goods and the incapability to afford them. With the onset of the shutdown and the genesis of another US economic tragedy, there will be an increase in people not being able to afford the things they need. In a nation where competition for such goods may grow stronger, citizens may be more aggressive when it comes to attaining their needs. Theft and robbery may be the only measure available to some who may lose their entire purchasing capability. However, the shutdown does not equate with anarchy. Increased in theft and robbery incidents may be a possibility but the idea that they are to be an acceptable act is still farfetched. Thieves and robbers will still be held accountable for their crimes; they won’t necessarily be free of the consequences of their action. So in general, people may have in increased propensity to commit crimes since to some, these may only be the option left to attain the goods they need. But, that does not mean that these acts are to be acceptable. They are still punishable. The government is on a shutdown, but the laws do not cease to take effect. Crimes are still crimes and are still punishable in the eyes of man.


Roger Gallager is a communications Specialist with expertise in marketing.  He is also a freelance writer. He has written about a range of topics including saving, money tips, home improvement, and the construction industry. He has been writing articles advising homeowners on how to secure homes, and deal with home-related problems that will inevitably arise. His expertise in the field is balanced by his liking on aviation, and music.

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