Shutdown’s Quiet Impacts, and Increasing Harm

Some of the impacts of the shutdown – such as closing of National Parks and furloughs for federal employees – are more obvious to the American people.  Some impacts are less noticeable but can be just as harmful,  as the New York Times reports:

“As the partial government shutdown reached its 11th day on Friday, it was affecting far more than the nation’s monuments and parks, with much of the little-noticed machinery of government shifted to idle. Jobs deemed essential continued to be performed, but other tasks that have paused may take a lasting toll, even if President Obama and Congressional Republicans reach an agreement to end the shutdown soon.”

“The temporary disruption of furloughed workers’ spending patterns, a skittishness likely to continue even after they go back to work, is capable of measurable damage to the nation’s growth rate, economists said. Federal workers are ‘spooked’ and are likely to save more and spend less, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. ‘They’re going to be cautious at least into the next year,’ he said.”

“The National Institutes of Health, the largest financial supporter of medical research in the world, has ground to a halt during the peak of its grant-making season, suspending millions of dollars in new research.”

“The country’s Antarctic program has been suspended, ejecting some of the world’s leading scientists from their lodgings at the South Pole, where they collect data crucial for understanding climate change.”

“Some agencies, like the E.P.A., have been virtually shuttered. Almost 95 percent of the agency’s 16,000 workers have been told to stay home. And while some longtime opponents of environmental regulation cheer that temporary outcome, others are deploring what could be lasting impacts on the environment.”

“But the shutdown has left close to 500,000 employees still on furlough, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.”

“Scientists said that one of the most serious casualties might be the country’s reputation. Markus Kissler-Patig, the director of the Gemini Observatory, an international coalition with telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, said he was worried about the United States’ foreign partners if the coalition’s cash flow, which is administered by the National Science Foundation, were to run out. The foundation, which is almost entirely furloughed, cannot provide cash infusions during the shutdown.”

“Nor could the timing have been worse for the James Webb Space Telescope, an $8 billion contraption that unfolds like an origami figure in space and will be capable of detecting the universe’s earliest galaxies.”

And the impacts of the Republican government shutdown will only get worse if it continues, the National Journal reports:

“But while the pain is clearly tolerable now, it will begin to feel unacceptably acute soon, should the shutdown continue.”

“Consider transportation. Roads and bridges are paid for by a highway trust fund that shouldn't be much affected by the pathological stalemate over a continuing resolution. But, one transportation industry representative says, there's a huge regulatory dimension to roads – permits needed from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others. Those agencies are barely functioning let alone processing permits. … What's tolerable now won't be in a month if roads can't get built.”

“It's been less than two weeks since the government was partially shuttered. Another week or so of the government not putting out economic statistics, leaving the financial services industry flying blind, and Americans may feel it. When applications for veterans' benefits or FHA loans start to stall, things may not look peachy. Not surprisingly the poor take it the hardest. Social Security for grandma in Boca seems safe but all the administrative money for running the SNAP program, formerly known as Food Stamps? That's gone even if the money for beneficiaries can last longer. School lunch programs may have another month left before states have to kick in. It's not impossible that federal courts may start to slow down, with some trials going into cryogenic recess. That's why economists overwhelmingly believe a shutdown of a few weeks will cause real problems.”

Are House Republicans ready to end the madness? Seems like they should stop blocking a vote on the Senate’s bill to reopen the government before things get worse.