The U.S. Government Shutdown from an Expat’s Perspective

Photo by Daniel Schwen.
Photo by Daniel Schwen.

The whole world is watching you shut down Grand Teton National Park (and every other federally funded monument and national park).

And the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

And WIC.

And a huge percentage of the employees at the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Education, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Head Start, and a whole lot of other agencies.

It’s interesting to me that almost everyone in the Departments of Defence and Homeland Security are essential services but feeding people or cleaning up toxic waste sites is optional.

It’s even more interesting to read that the members of Congress kept their private gym open and their own pay checks flowing while cutting off other people’s income.

Sometimes I wonder if the U.S. has any idea how much of an influence it has on other countries. When I lived in the States I knew very little about what was happening in the rest of the world. With few exceptions I didn’t know anything about the political structures of any countries, what parties were most common in their societies, or how their elections turned out.

I don’t blame the average person living in the States for not being knowledgable about the rest of the world, by the way. When your culture teaches isolationism and your news sites quietly support that notion it’s really hard to know what it is you’re missing or where to begin. I’ve lived here for 8 years and I’m still filling in the missing chunks.


It’s different on the other side of the looking glass. Who the average U.S. citizen votes into office has a big impact on the rest of the world, and whether the U.S. realizes it or not everyone else pays close attention when something this big gums up your legislative processes.

Especially when the reason for shutting down the federal government sounds like something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Imagine Captain Picard stumbling onto a planet on the brink of chaos set off not by a natural disaster, war, or unusually virulent epidemic….but because some of the population’s elected officials hated the idea that more people were going to have access to affordable health care so much that they decided to grind the vast majority of their government agencies to a halt until they got their way.

I know this is impractical, but sometimes I wonder if U.S. senators and congresspeople would be less reactive if they were required to live abroad full time for several years before running for office.

Would they still hate the idea of “socialized medicine” if they were rushed to the emergency room at 3 a.m. in Ontario and after a flurry of tests and treatment were only held responsible for paying a $50 ambulance fee?

Could they learn how other societies ensure everyone has appropriate medical care and export some of those tactics to the U.S.?

Is it possible they’d realize that every country has its own political scandals and controversies but that in the vast majority of cases our elected officials don’t shut down the federal government, take back their toys, and stomp home because they didn’t get their way?

0 Responses to The U.S. Government Shutdown from an Expat’s Perspective

  1. As usual, I’m behind on my reading and working backward. Started with this. As an expat, I was cheering as I read it. That a handful of far-right people could hold the U.S. government hostage because it made a small step toward universal health care is a sad comment on the deterioration of a country I still love.