Amongst all the jabber about the federal government “shutting down,” there are a few important details being overlooked. Once you wade through those proclaiming, “Shut it down for good!” or “Why do we have non-essential government employees anyway?” (I’m looking askance at you, Libertarians), we come to the meat of the matter.
Shutdowns cost taxpayers
“But it’s shutdown. How can it cost me money?” you ask and I’m glad you did. Federal employees are always given backpay. A shutdown is essentially just a paid vacation for them. They aren’t paid at the time and it is a hardship, but ultimately, they are reimbursed. Contractors are always given backpay, too. These are legal, contractual agreements between the government and companies. They have to be paid once the checks start getting written again. Plus, there are costs to coordinating the shutdown and the inevitable re-opening. Planning meetings, contingency plans, physical plant security, etc. all have to be attended to. These detract from actual work being done. Then you have the fact that half the government is exempt from the shutdown because they are deemed essential. As a taxpayer, you should be angry that your money is being wasted on these frivolous activities in the name of a political chess game.
They really hurt the little guy
Take a look at the federal pay scale. You may be surprised that federal employees don’t really earn that much money. They often trade a higher salary they could earn in the private sector for job security and guaranteed retirement. The majority of the federal workforce is like most of America, they’re living paycheck to paycheck. The one thing a shutdown always does is stop the checks from going out. This puts a pothole in any economic activity that depends on the upper-lower-class’ and the middle-class’ spending activities. These workers naturally go into protection mode, digging into their savings (if they have any) just to keep their lights on. There are serious economic repercussions when 1.3 million people suddenly don’t have a paycheck. Those shouty people from the opening paragraph don’t realize the private sector loses a large chunk of their customer base overnight.
They destroy moral
Most federal workers, both direct and contracted, are conscientious employees. They are genuinely doing good work and spending their budgets wisely. They are executing their tasks as efficiently as the system will allow. Telling them they are non-essential and putting them through fiscal hell for a spell, takes its toll on their outlook. They often return to work in a malaise that may take a few weeks or months to get over. This further impacts the services the taxpayers receive for their investment. You can’t blame them either. This is a natural reaction anyone who gets laid-off, then rehired, would have.
There are real repercussions
It’s estimated that the 16-day, 2013 shutdown cost $24 billion. That’s a 1/4 of one percent of the GDP. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to have a real impact on financial markets. While some cheer what is becoming perennial shutdowns, they lose sight of the fact that their own 401k suffers, too.
You had one job, Congress
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 essentially tasks Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, with establishing a Federal budget. Congress has a pretty spotty record of actually passing a budget. The last budget was set in 2009. Since then the government has run on what is known as Continuing Resolutions (CRs), which is Congress’ way of kicking the can down the road. It isn’t lost on anyone that constantly wrangling over CRs is politically expedient. It gives a party, especially the minority party, great leverage. The current shutdown is cased as the Democrat’s way of keeping the DACA or “Dream Act” alive. Every shutdown can be tied to someone’s pet agenda project. The 2013 shutdown was the Republican’s trying to force the Democrat’s hand on The Affordable Care Act, aka, “Obamacare.” The power of the CR is basically a nuclear option for the minority party and we all understand that nuclear war has fallout. As with real nuclear war, there are no winners. The ACA is still in effect. The DACA will likely remain in effect, too. A shutdown is political theater that avoids the real business of government and usually changes nothing.