Shutdown shenanigans and uncertainty effect
The budget battle in Washington may be little more than a game of high-publicity political chicken for the president and those members of Congress at the center of the fight. But it is having real-world consequences for people across the country.
As this was being written Monday afternoon, it was still unclear whether Congress would allow the government to shut down today, or whether the House and Senate would reach some agreement minutes before midnight.
And that uncertainty was clearly having an effect.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 150 points when stock trading opened Monday morning, and, though it regained some of its losses through the day, it still was down substantially. This after a week of steady sliding attributed primarily to uncertainty over a possible shutdown. Other stock indices have seen similar price drops.
The uncertainty isn’t limited to stock-market investors. For example, there are the government employees who may not have known until today whether they would be working or not.
Even though it’s called a shutdown, nearly three-quarters of the federal government’s 3.3 million workers are deemed “essential” employees and will keep working, at least initially, even if there is no budget agreement, according to CNN. However, because not all federal agencies have filed contingency plans, CNN could only guess at how many workers would actually be furloughed if there is a shutdown.
Furthermore, even if federal employees are deemed essential, they could work for many weeks without a paycheck, as millions did the last time the government shut down in 1995. That one lasted 21 days, so federal workers have good reason to be anxious about how long they may have to rely on their savings if a shutdown occurs.
Businesses that depend on tourism on public lands also are understandably nervous. News from around the country shows communities and businesses near major national parks, monuments, national forests and other federal lands expect large financial losses if a prolonged government shutdown occurs.
Then there are businesses that contract with government entities, from the military to the Department of Transportation. Will their contracts be stalled? Payments delayed?
All of this might be easier to stomach if it were a one-time occurrence. But brinksmanship over continued funding of the government has become a regular event in Washington. Even if a shutdown doesn’t occur this week or it is very short, another deadline — and the opportunity for even greater uncertainty — is coming in just a few weeks when Congress must either raise the debt ceiling or allow the government to begin defaulting on its debt.
Voters tired of these repeated games should look for candidates of both parties who will vow to perform their fiduciary responsibilities in a timely manner and not foment needless uncertainty through politically manufactured budget crises.