THE US government has begun to shut itself down after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a budget by midnight Monday.
The Republican-led House of Representatives had decided that defeating Obama’s healthcare reform was more important than maintaining the US government.
More than 800,000 federal employees are now on unpaid leave, while the state department will operate for a limited time, as will current military operations. For the moment, the Defence Department has advised employees that the military will continue on normal duty, but that large numbers of civilian workers must stay home.
Department of Education staffing is expected to be severely hit, while 12,700 staff from the Department of Energy have been sent home, with 1,113 remaining to oversee the US’ massive nuclear arsenal.
The Department of Health and Human Services is sending more than half of its staff home, while the Smithsonian institutions, museums, zoos and national parks have been closed.
As the crisis develops more and more of the government will be laid off. Goldman Sachs estimates that by October 17th, when the next stage of the US capitalist catastrophe is set to explode, 1% will have been sliced off the US GDP for this quarter.
In striking the US government with a huge body-blow, at a time when US and world capitalism is facing its greatest ever economic and political crisis, the Republican Party has emphasised that it considers Obama to be a greater danger to the US than Assad, and that it wants policies to drive the US working class back, not ‘Obamacare’ which it regards as ‘appeasement’ of the workers.
The Republicans want tough measures against the working class, the middle class and the millions of youth who have begun to rise up. The US masses, who stopped Obama going to war with Syria, are incensed at the way that up to a trillion dollars of quantitative easing have been used to rescue and fatten the banks, while millions of jobs have been cut, millions of homes have been lost, hundreds of huge plants have been closed, and entire cities have gone bankrupt.
The whole world is now shocked by the decline and crisis of US imperialism and the massive gulf between its leaders.
The feuding capitalist parties themselves are astonished at how far they have been prepared to go to ruin their rivals.
Shortly after midnight Monday, President Obama tweeted: ‘They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.’
Early on Monday evening, President Obama went on national television to declare shutdown would ‘throw a wrench’ into the US recovery.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party regards its main enemy to be the US working class.
Now the October 17th deadline for extending the government’s borrowing limit looms even larger.
On that date, the US government will reach the limit at which it can borrow money to pay its bills, the so-called ‘debt ceiling’ of $16.7 trillion.
A Republican failure to raise the limit will plunge the US into default, see the dollar collapsing and with it banks and share prices all over the capitalist world.
The banking and industrial crisis of 2008 will be revealed to have been the prelude to the catastrophe that an October 17th default will unleash.
Just before Monday night’s shutdown major US unions rushed out their statements.
The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard condemned the Republicans’ ‘reckless behaviour’.
The AFL-CIO leader Trumka said that ‘Somehow Republicans have managed to go from pushing irresponsible policies to something even worse.’
The US trade unions must wake up rapidly to the time of day, when the US capitalist parties are split over just how to make the working class and the middle class pay the full price of the crisis of US capitalism.
The US unions must break with the Democrats and form a Labour Party, while the advanced workers must form a section of the Fourth International to play the leading role in the organisation of the American socialist revolution.