How to Explain the Government Shutdown to Kids

BY   |  WEDNESDAY, OCT 02, 2013 2:00PM  |  COMMENTS (24)

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With many adults not truly understanding the government shutdown (and the Affordable Care Act), it is difficult to explain it to our children. Our friends over at  Here There Everywhere: News for Kids have a really great explanation for kids:


You may be hearing a lot of talk about the government partially shutting down.

It’s true.

What does that actually mean? How did it happen? And will you feel it?

It’s pretty complicated (understatement), but here’s the shutdown in a nutshell:

The federal government in Washington makes decisions on how to spend the country’s money. A lot of that money is actually from taxes your parents pay. There’s supposed to be a budget each year that decides how that money is spent.

In general, Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas on how to best use that money. They actually have different ideas on the role the federal government should have in people’s lives. Democrats generally believe in a bigger role than Republicans. Those differences come into play when they’re trying to figure out how to budget the nation’s money.

In order to pass the budget, Congress — the Senate and the House of Representatives — need to agree, or at least come to a compromise. Currently, the Senate is controlled by Democrats and the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. And they’ve found it maddeningly difficult to work together.

The government shutdown happened largely because of a huge sticking point over a healthcare program called Obamacare (it’s technical name is the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act). It passed into law a few years ago, but it went into effect Tuesday, the same day as the deadline to pass a budget.

House of Representative Republicans don’t want to fund this big new national and mandatory health care program. They’re the keepers of the government checkbook and budget legislation originates with them. In the budget they proposed they said they won’t write checks to fund Obamacare. The Senate responded to the House of Representatives saying they won’t sign the House of Representatives’ budget because it doesn’t fund Obamacare. Total impasse.

This went back and forth … until their deadline to figure this out by Monday at midnight came and went. And now both sides blame each other.

The consequence of missing the deadline is that the government partially shuts down until Congress figures it out. Keep in mind, you have your state and local government as well and they’re not part of this.

Members of Congress continue to get paid but the people most hurt by the shutdown are every day Americans — it’s their tax money AND they elected Congress to figure these things out for them in the first place. Regular citizens will also feel the impact of the government shutdown most.