Not being able to visit any of the country’s 401 national parks or the many museum under the Smithsonian umbrella due to the government shutdown will not have a devastating impact on citizens. There will be lost tourist dollars, skipped paychecks for park rangers and curators and other furloughed employees to be sure. But the impact is not likely to be catastrophic.
In that regard, Weekly Standard founder William Kristol’s assertion that the government could stay closed for a few weeks and it wouldn’t be the end of the world, “if you can’t go into the Smithsonian,” is understandable.
But just as the government won’t be funded piecemeal—as the GOP would like to do, passing mini-appropriation bills to fund certain departments—the shutdown isn’t limited to a single area of government. And that’s the issue The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein took Kristol to task over on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today.
“It is sort of comparable to the end of the world,” if you’re on nutrition assistance, Stein points out. He cites the fact that 85,000 people will lose nutrition assistance provided by Women, Infants and Children in Arkansas, and that Head Start programs for children are being closed too.
The status of WIC, which provides assistance to nearly 9 million mothers and children, varies state-by-state during the shutdown; it won’t receive any federal money until the impasse ends. In California, as we reported yesterday, the nutrition program for pregnant women, new mothers and children has enough money to last through November. But in Arkansas, it appears there’s only funding for a mere week’s worth of WIC benefits, according to the Associated Press.
“Two-thousand newborn babies will not receive infant formula through the Department of Health's WIC program. That number includes the more than 300 special-needs babies who soon run out of special formula they can only receive through a certified program like WIC,” Democrat governor Mike Beebe said in a statement.
Kristol appears to have little empathy for those who will be dropped from WIC in Arkansas and other states—nor does he seem to quite understand that strapped state governments are highly unlikely to throw money at a program that’s traditionally funded 100 percent by the feds.
“It’s not gonna be the end of the world, honestly, even if you’re on nutritional assistance from the federal government,” Kristol responded. “The state of Arkansas can help out. Localities can help out. Churches can help out. I believe that no one will starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.”