How long will it last?
So, you may well be asking: What’s the big deal about a government shutdown?
Most people are still working. Stores are still open. Schools are still in session. Planes are landing and taking off at airports. Members of our military and other services deemed essential remain at their posts. The stock market may gyrate, but you can still get money at the ATM.
Life seemed pretty normal Tuesday, a day after Congress and the president failed to reach agreement on a temporary funding bill, triggering the first federal shutdown in 17 years. However, that normalcy is an illusion. There’s nothing normal about this, unless you consider lurching from crisis to crisis a normal part of government’s functioning. Sad to say, that’s the case.
The shutdown appears far different if you’re among the 800,000 furloughed federal workers, including National Guardsmen in Rowan County. Or if you’ve had to leave a national park that’s now closed. Or if you’re applying for a Small Business Administration loan. And the real impact — the potential damage to the economic recovery — won’t begin to be felt until the weeks ahead if Washington fails to quickly resolve the budget fight and raise the federal debt ceiling.
How much could the potential cost be? Goldman Sachs estimates that a three-week shutdown could shave almost a full percentage point off the current quarter’s projected growth rate, now expected to be a tepid 2.5 percent. If the shutdown is accompanied by a similar stalemate over the debt limit, it would roil global markets. When Republicans merely delayed raising the debt limit in 2011, U.S. taxpayers were saddled with $1.3 billion in increased interest costs that year alone, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce certainly thinks it’s a pretty big deal. In a Sept. 27 letter to Congress, signed by 236 business and trade organizations, the chamber warned that if tea party representatives tried to use these tactics to defund the Affordable Care Act, it would have “negative consequences for ordinary Americans.”
“It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy,” the chamber warned. “Likewise, we respectfully urge the Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and remove any threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.”
How long this standoff will continue is anyone’s guess. But the longer it continues, the more it will cost both in dollars and in deteriorating faith in our institutions — and the longer it will take to repair the damage.