Strange are the ways of the United States. Like many things American, it is hard to understand the intricacies of public administration in the fifty-state nation often called the land of opportunities. Shutdowns are nothing new. It may be a trade union hankering after collective bargaining or a group of disenchanted workers in a walkout over wages. Shutdowns by striking workers are usually a result of a long-unaddressed grievance. Often the agitation is the result of workers and owners going in different directions over an issue relating to the enterprise. But what about a government shutdown? It’s a no-brainer. The US federal government went into a partial shutdown mode after Monday midnight Eastern Time. This means about 700,000 federal employees across the length and breadth of the country face furloughs — leave without pay. It is doubtful that they will get back their dues once the standoff ends.
Employees apart, the public would be the biggest sufferer as many parks, entertainment facilities and institutions dealing with public service will be shut down until the Democrats and Republicans agree on the federal budget. Governance in the United States is a complicated affair. The discipline and practice of Public Administration was born in the US. Woodrow Wilson, called the father of Public Administration, was a US president.
The multiple levels of government and the preponderance of a rules-based culture in the US often leads to administrative logjams, which are beyond the comprehension of the common man and most of the international community. Besides closing federal government facilities, the current shutdown has led to thousands of US visa applications being stalled. The issue of passports has also come to a halt. The crisis has been perpetrated by Republicans trying to delay funding for the healthcare overhaul, termed Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democrats-controlled Senate have pulled in different directions on the subject. Except for essential services like active-duty personnel in uniform, national security staff, nuclear weapons and power, and air traffic control, most other federal services have screeched to a halt. President Barack Obama was at pains to tell his troops on television that they need not be worried about the shutdown and all their needs will be taken care of to keep them out of harm’s way. The shutdown sounds anomalous — a government going on strike as a result of something created of its own accord.
When there is an increase in gun crimes, many Americans argue for more of them instead of curtailing their numbers, citing the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Such are the complexities of American public administration.
The US Declaration of Independence says that ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the unalienable rights of man.’ It wouldn’t be wrong to say that crises like the current one violates the principles dreamt of by the framers of the constitution•