The government shutdown was basically over nothing

Was the Sturm und Drang worth all of the trouble? No, no it wasn't.

Barricades down
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

The list of what America lost during the government shutdown, which ended shortly after midnight with a pen stroke from the president, is long.

The U.S. economy took a $24 billion hit, according to Standard & Poor's, with predictions for fourth-quarter GDP growth falling to 2.4 percent, from 3 percent. The country's credit rating remains intact, but its status as a global guarantor of financial stability has been shaken, with foreign creditors like China calling for a "de-Americanized world."

Economic growth wasn't the only victim of the budget crisis. Whatever was left of America's faith in its leaders died, too, with 74 percent of registered voters hoping to see most members of Congress kicked out of office.

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So what, exactly, did the United States gain from 16 days of bitter rhetoric and government dysfunction?

Well, the country didn't default on its debts and slide into a new recession, thanks to the fact that the debt ceiling was extended until Feb. 7. And federal employees will finally get to return to work, at least until Jan. 15, when government funding runs out again.

Other than avoiding a catastrophe that Congress brought upon itself, the end result of the government shutdown was this: Slightly modified income verification standards for ObamaCare.

Before the shutdown, some Republicans were angry that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would only audit a percentage of people applying for health insurance subsidies under ObamaCare, instead of every single applicant.

The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff explains what would happen if Americans were able to game the system:

Anyone who submitted a falsely lower income level would likely have to pay those subsidies back to the federal government after filing an income tax report that revealed higher earnings. They could accused of fraud and face penalties. But, for at least a few months, they could get a cheaper insurance plan. [Washington Post]

Not exactly the end of the world, but clearly enough of a concern for conservatives to have a debate over. So, how does the bill signed by the president prevent this? It doesn't. All the new bill does is require HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to submit two reports on the effectiveness of ObamaCare's safeguards against fraud.

That is what America gained from the government shutdown. Oh, and some pork, like $2.2 billion for a dam in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).

What about measures to make sure this never happens again? Don't worry, the bill asks for the formation of a bipartisan House-Senate budget conference committee that would be responsible for creating a long-term deficit reduction plan by Dec. 13 — because, you know, bipartisan budget talks have always worked in the past.

At least Americans will be spared the non-stop fighting over the debt ceiling, and can go back to watching Washington accomplish nothing on immigration.

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