How to Survive the Government Shutdown: Real Advice for People Who Are Scared or Struggling

by Daisy Luther

In general, when the government shuts down, I post a few funny memes about how it’s the most boring apocalypse ever and my life goes on exactly as it has before. I’m not personally very affected by it and I think the government is far too large anyway. But, with the MSM literally proclaiming it doomsday, the emails I’ve received have shown that for a lot of people, a government shutdown is a cause for concern.

The longest our government has ever been shut down was 21 days, and that was under President Clinton in 1996. Today, the current shutdown has matched that one and if it continues, will be the longest in history.

A few words about government shutdown theater.

The government deliberate makes a shutdown as painful as possible for us, the little guys. They have to do that, to prove to us that they’re “essential” to our existence. Otherwise, why would we continue paying the taxes that fund their salaries and cushy lifestyles?

You’ll see a lot of heartwrenching stories about children showing up to the Smithsonian only to find it closed and about trash piled up in our national parks. You’ll hear about government employees who cannot pay their bills and who are having to visit food banks to feed their families.

What you won’t hear about are tearful Senators and members of Congress who are being evicted because they cannot pay their mortgages. You won’t see those folks lined up at the food banks because – they still get paid. (Aside from a handful of Congress members who have eschewed a paycheck during the shutdown, anyway – that number has grown to more than 70, but remember that there are 535, so most of them are still taking their fat salaries..)

The choices about what is essential are not made to make our lives any easier. Any hardships we may face are simply collateral damage that one political party will blame on the other political party.

So keep this in mind whenever you see the sad tales of government shutdown woe. Someone, somewhere, made the decision that this person’s hardship doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of them getting their own way.

The “doomsday” stuff the media is talking about

According to an article on NBC, we’re facing a doomsday scenario if the shutdown persists. You’d think, from the language, that NBC had suddenly become a prepping site, with phrases like “economic hellscape” and “devastating impact.”

Here are the issues that Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytic, and other experts interviewed by NBC have predicted, should the standoff continue for much longer:

If the worst were to happen, experts say the devastating impact would be widespread:

  • 38 million low-income Americans lose food stamps
  • 6 million face an uncertain timetable for collecting tax refunds
  • 2 million without rental assistance and facing possible eviction
  • 800,000 paycheck-less federal employees plunged into dire financial straits
  • Shuttered parks and museums while overstressed airports cause tourism to tank
  • Federal court system slows to a crawl
  • Disaster relief money doesn’t get to storm-ravaged areas
  • Lapsed FDA and EPA inspections lead to dangerous outbreaks
  • Private companies looking to go public are stuck in limbo
  • Stock market plummets

The end isn’t near — yet. But if …Congress and President Donald Trump can’t reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling in a few months, “it’s game over — you’ll have a pretty severe recession,” Zandi said, adding that given the trade war with China, and Brexit looming, “you could start seeing some pretty dark scenarios” worldwide. (source)

I mean, these certainly aren’t positive things. But again please note how the people who suffer the most are NOT the ones responsible for the current stress.  I assure you that any member of Congress who wants to fly somewhere will have no problem working around sluggish airport security.

Obviously, stories like this are pretty alarming to anyone with a pulse. I received a lot of emails citing the article above. People are really concerned and scared and this is truly part and parcel of the shutdown theater. They want you to feel scared and insecure without them.

Here are some of the most common concerns I’ve gotten emails about, and advice about what you can do, to the best of my ability.

I’m a government employee and I can’t survive without a paycheck.

It’s got to be terrifying to think you have a stable job with a reliable employer and then suddenly, BOOM, you are without a paycheck. If you have an emergency fund, now is the time to crack into it.

If you do not have an emergency fund and you’ve been struggling a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, things will be a lot tougher.

The first thing I suggest you do is to talk to anyone to whom you owe money: utility companies, mortgage companies, banks, credit card companies, etc., and let them know about your situation. Everyone knows what’s going on and these businesses may have some suggestions for you. Mortgage companies may be able to offer you a month of grace, credit card companies may make arrangements with you, etc.

If you have only a limited amount of money, you’re going to have to prioritize where you spend it. This will probably affect your credit negatively but there’s nothing that can be done about that. Keep a roof over your head, utilities on, food in the kitchen, and a car in your driveway if your job depends on it. Credit card debt should be the last thing you pay in a situation like this. Go read this article, How to Survive When You Can’t Pay Your Bills, for more detailed information and see my recommendations for people who won’t get their EBT money above for ideas on keeping your family fed.

I rely on EBT to feed my family and my payment may not be coming.

This is a terrible situation for millions of people who are aided by government assistance for food. Before we get a barrage of unsympathetic pseudo-Christians proclaiming how glad they are that “leeches will get cut off,” please remember that elderly people, disabled people, and children will be among the ones starving and get back on track here. Not everyone on assistance is taking advantage of the system.

If you are in this situation, you’re going to need to expect a very lean month. Hopefully, you have a few things kicking around your house like some canned goods, pasta, and beans. But if money has been tight for a long time, I know that you may not have much back-up food.

Take any money you do have available and purchase some inexpensive staples to see you through the next month: dried beans, plain rice, canned fruits and vegetables, a bag of apples,  a bag of onions, a bag of potatoes, and a bag of carrots (the large, inexpensive, unpeeled type.) Also, purchase some pasta and canned spaghetti sauce. Canned diced tomatoes can get you a long way in making soups and casseroles. Peanut butter, oatmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar are also worthwhile additions. While I rarely recommend things like this, you can add a few packs of boxed mac and cheese to get some extra calories in your meals.

That may not sound delicious, but it will keep you from starving and provide decent nutrition throughout a tight spot. You can get creative and make a lot of different meals from the foods above if you have some spices and seasonings on hand.

If you do not have any money to purchase the foods I recommended above, you may have to visit your local food bank. If family members ask how they can help, provide them with a list of the foods I mentioned above. Local charities and churches may also be able to offer some assistance.

TSA workers are calling in sick – how easy will it be to slip in terrorists?

Interestingly enough, the TSA has never once since its inception, directly stopped a terror attack.

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In fact, when tested by Homeland Security, they failed at an epic rate of 95% to detect planted “terrorists” who sailed through the annoying process of removing their shoes and being patted down by Bubba-who-feels-important.

So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process.  (source)

Here are a few more facts about the TSA and their rates of failure.

…But government is bad at directly producing security. The FAA regulates safety for airlines but doesn’t actually fly the planes. Private screeners are more effective and efficient than TSA screeners while over 20,000 TSA employees have been accused of misconduct, more than half multiple times.

The TSA is a waste of money and travelers’ time. The only thing that the TSA “blue flu” will do during this shutdown is making the lives of travelers even more inconvenient. I don’t think that a lack of TSA makes us any less safe than we were before this shutdown.

And if we do see an attack on a plane during the shutdown? Well, my first thought would be to wonder whether the government really, really wanted to prove how necessary they are. It certainly wouldn’t be the first false flag in history.

The FDA and USDA aren’t inspecting food and there are already so many recalls when they ARE working

Everyone knows we’ve seen a massive barrage of recalls in the American food supply over the past few years. It’s pretty scary when going to the grocery store makes you feel like you’re navigating restaurants in a third-world country.

So it isn’t an unreasonable concern that even more contaminated food might get missed and make it to the grocery store shelves.

There are a few things to remember with this. First of all, most recalls occur not due to a failed inspection, but due to consumer complaints to the manufacturer, who then issues the recall.

A food recall occurs when there is reason to believe that a food may cause consumers to become ill. A food manufacturer or distributor initiates the recall to take foods off the market. In some situations, food recalls are requested by government agencies (USDA or FDA).

Some reasons for recalling food include:

  • Discovery of an organism in a product which may make consumers sick
  • Discovery of a potential allergen in a product
  • Mislabeling or misbranding of food. For example, a food may contain an allergen, such as nuts or eggs, but those ingredients do not appear on the label. (source)

To avoid potential dangers, it helps to know what things are more likely to be recalled.

In recent years, many recalls have been of foods that have been processed or handled excessively:

  • Ground meats
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Pre-sliced fruits and vegetables
  • Prewashed salad greens

Of course, the romaine lettuce recall was not processed at all so there are always exceptions.

There’s no better time than this to start supporting your local farmers. If you are able to purchase meat locally (the requirement for USDA inspection varies from state to state) you are much more likely to get carefully processed, healthy meat. You can also purchase a roast at the grocery store and have the butcher grind it for you if you want ground beef.

Focus on the produce that is actually IN SEASON right now (hint: not lettuce) but things like parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas.  (Here’s an article about 15 foods that are in season now.) You can get seasonal produce from grocery stores too. Look for foods that you peel.

We survived for thousands of years without our food being inspected for us – but then our food wasn’t processed in plants and shipped across the globe.

My housing is paid for by HUD. Am I going to be evicted?

If your housing is paid for in part or in full by HUD, then it’s possible that payment will not be made if the shutdown continues. My advice to you is to be in contact with your landlord. He or she knows that the shutdown may affect their payments and they’re probably just as worried as you are.

It wouldn’t make sense for landlords to begin evicting tenants whose rent is generally paid unless you’ve otherwise been a bad tenant. It’s possible that some landlords may try to pressure tenants with the threat of eviction to get them to pay some or all of their rent if the HUD payment does not arrive. You need to understand the eviction process in your state. Here’s an article with some information about evictions state by state.

Generally when a shutdown is over, the government will make good on any backpayments that were due during the shutdown.

Are you expecting civil unrest if EBT and HUD don’t pay out at the end of the month?

It seems like we’re always a country on the verge of civil unrest these days, and a sudden withdrawal of benefits could certainly incite people across the nation.

Will hordes of hungry people storm grocery stores across the country, Black Friday-style? It’s not impossible, but I think we’d be more likely to see large protests before that kind of thing occurs.

This doesn’t mean we’re going to see riots in the streets of every small town in America, however. I could foresee more issues in cities or communities with a higher percentage of people receiving assistance. I certainly urge you to be prepared for the possibility if the shutdown continues to this point. This article discusses how to prepare for civil unrest.

If the situation persists for multiple months, however, we’ll absolutely see an uptick in crime as people become more and more desperate.

Do you have concerns about the government shutdown?

If you’re affected by this shutdown, my feelings about the government theater aside, my heart goes out to you and I wish you the very best. I hope the suggestions I provided here are helpful.

Did I miss covering your specific concern about the shutdown? Have you been personally affected by this? Please share any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.




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