The Health Equity Blog’s mission is to contribute to the discussion of health policy using evidence and research, to explore the opportunities for health equity through policy change, to raise awareness about health disparities, and to increase public advocacy for health equality.

According to the CDC, “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’”

Achievement of full health potential is necessary in all aspects of life – from running errands to relationships with loved ones. Some people are born into environments that limit their ability to achieve their full health potential. We believe that because society created many health inequalities, society can also fix them.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What Happens If The Government Shuts Down Tonight?

The Consequences

    Unfortunately, no one can be sure what will happen if the government shuts down tonight.  However, there are a few possible consequences that are particularly troubling.

1.) It will (and possibly already has) hurt the economy - we still haven’t fully recovered from the recent recession though we have been improving somewhat.  The uncertainty that has come from this most recent battle between democrats and republicans in congress has already caused the stock market to go down in the last few days.  If there is a shut down, especially if it lasts for more than a few days, it could disrupt the economy by causing cuts in government salaries and contracts and harming the trust of investors among other things. (Economists Warn of Dire Consequences of Government Shutdown, Debt Default)

2.) Two-thirds of government employees will be put on unpaid furlough - those government workers who are designated as essential (Congress, the President, Defense Department Officials, Air Traffic Controller, uniformed Military personnel, etc) will continue to work and be paid.  Those who are designated as unessential, will not work, will not be paid, and will not be guaranteed retroactive pay when the government shutdown ends (How Will A Government ShutDown Affect You?).

3.) The CDC could close its doors right as flu season begins - Although influenza is not as deadly as it used to be (thanks to flu shots), the CDC still estimates that from the 1976/77 flu season to the 2006/7 flu season there was a range of influenza based deaths between 3,000 and 49,000 people per year (Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu) .  Whether a flu season is on the low or high side of the range depends on the predominant strain.  If the government is shut down for more than a few days, government funded flu shot programs would be shut down as well (Federal government shutdown would imperil key Acadia tourism season, flu shots and fuel aid).

The Equity and Fairness Issue

    If the government shuts down tonight, the people who will be most hurt are not those who are responsible for the harm.  This year, rank and file members of congress’s income is $174,000 which is increased if a congress member is in a leadership position.  The median household income in the US is $50,502 which means that congress is paid 3.45 times more than the median.  The median government worker earns $74,714 (congress gets 2.33 times more) and the average enlisted soldier earns $33,141 (congress gets 5.25 times more).  Average Americans, government workers and enlisted soldiers all get paid much less than congress and will have a harder time dealing with not being paid if the government shuts down - they also have done nothing to cause the government shut down.  So why does congress continue to get paid while they don’t?

What Can We Do?

    So what can we do about the shutdown now?  What can we do to prevent shutdowns in the future?  And what can we do about the equity and fairness issue?  One thing we can all do in the short term is call our congress members to urge them to do their jobs and focus on passing a budget, not politically grandstanding.  Beyond that, I have a few suggestions.

1.) Congress members should be the first people to stop being paid if a shutdown happens and they should still have to work to stop the problem.  They were getting paid and not doing their jobs before the shut down, so they owe the American people some work.

2.) Congress members pay should be tied to the American people’s.  If politicians want a raise, they have to make life better for the rest of us.

3.) We should have publicly funded elections.  Currently, elections incentive people who are good at getting people to give them money to run for office.  This isn’t the most important quality for congress member.

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