Experts and students weigh in on the shutdown's effects

    Although the last government shutdown ended just over a week ago, the danger of another shutdown looms. Americans could experience another shutdown as soon as Feb. 16.

    As it turns out, Congress didn’t actually pass the federal budget plan on Jan. 23. President Trump submitted it on March 16, 2017, and Congress started debating the budget on Oct. 1. It has only managed to pass three different “continuing appropriations” acts so far, each delaying the budget decision by a few weeks. Republican and Democratic senators will have to come to an agreement by the February deadline or risk another shutdown.

    Despite lasting only three days, the short-term effects of this past brief budget crisis could go far beyond taxpayer dollars. Much of the shutdown’s controversy focused on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and this year’s severe flu season. However, the CDC was less affected than in previous years, as its flu outbreak tracker was still in service.

    In contrast, federal funding to universities and research centers like Northwestern are typically stopped altogether during a shutdown, according to Dr. Matthew Davis, chief of academic general pediatrics and primary care at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

    Lapses in funding interrupt the consistent support that Davis said is “vital to successful research.” The National Institutes of Health funds a multitude of projects at Northwestern, such as research on the genetic origins of different diseases, the effects medications and treatments have on certain illnesses and the results early environments have on children’s physical and mental health.

    Economy-wise, the effects of the shutdown will be small, said Scott Baker, an assistant professor of finance at Kellogg who researches the effects of policy uncertainty on markets and growth. Nevertheless, Baker warned that it may have negatively affected the public’s feeling about the government and its efficiency.

    “Trump is leading our government right now, so I was kind of expecting something to happen,” said Kris Gerdts, a freshman in Medill. “It continued on the same assumptions and expectations that I have for the government right now, which aren’t that high.”

    Crystal Wall, a Medill sophomore, weighed in on the shutdown, saying, “It’s that typical game where they’re trading things to get what they want. It’s just politics.”

    The public’s feeling that shutdowns are a “typical game” could have adverse effects. Baker indicated that shutdown risks and uncertainty probably won’t be improving any time soon.

    “Both in the U.S. and abroad, governments have gotten a lot bigger [and] government spending as a fraction of GDP has gotten a lot bigger,” Baker said. “[There is the] potential to have much bigger impacts, because the government has a much bigger role in the economy than it used to… And, it certainly seems like Congress is not functioning too well.”


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