The federal government is shut down, performing only the most vital of functions. There’s the chance of a default, which could cause an economic catastrophe. But things are fairly calm. We seem relatively unaffected. Certainly, there are workers who are currently furloughed. Beyond that, though, the effects are not so apparent.
Every day, the federal government quietly loses an estimated $300 million. Every day, there are thousands of functions that a shut-down government does not fulfill.
What about this matters to Columbia? At the moment, federal agencies are not handing out vital research grants, and there is no distribution of money to the groups that already have such grants. With the government shut down, any potential research is effectively shut down, too. While we acknowledge that this is not nearly as pressing an issue to fix as other government functions, such as providing food stamps, it’s an incredible setback with long-term implications. For researchers at Columbia, lack of federal funds is already an issue. This shutdown stymies our ability to cure and treat disease, develop more sustainable sources of energy, and improve quality of life.
So we sincerely hope that this is only a minor blip in the radar of events—that the government resumes, and that it continues to fund critical research.
However, in the event that the government does not manage to raise the debt ceiling before Oct. 17, 10 days from now, we will be introduced to an entirely new magnitude of problems that will affect us more immediately, on a far greater scale.
When that debt ceiling is reached, the government will be left with $30 billion to handle all of its expenses. By most calculations, this money will run out before November, and the U.S. government will default on its payments.
A default would threaten the availability of federal financial aid, which gives tremendous opportunities for millions of students to attend colleges they otherwise would not be able to afford. Even here, where Columbia provides comparatively generously for undergraduate education, federal financial aid is still an important component of funding for many students. We would like to provide you with statistics on this important funding, but the website with said data is currently offline due to the shutdown.
Gridlock in Congress stands to jeopardize our scientific research, our education, and our country. The small group of hard-line Republicans must accede to the long-standing, obvious rule that laws that are passed shall be funded. Playing hostage with the federal government over the Affordable Care Act is an undertaking of staggering arrogance and sheer delinquency.
We respectfully ask that you contact your representative and ask them to stop this lunacy.
To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact email@example.com.